Arup Thoughts: Resilience-based earthquake design saves cost, heartache

If San Francisco were to experience a repeat of its devastating 1906 earthquake, modern building codes should prevent extensive loss of life. Although buildings might not collapse, they could still be rendered useless for years, severely disrupting the life of the city. This is why we need to adopt resilience-based design.

05/06/2014


 

 

Courtesy of Arup.Seismic building codes are based on ductility – how much you can deform a building before it collapses – and focuses on saving lives. Resilience-based design, on the other hand, seeks to keep people safe and ensure that buildings (and all the components and contents within the building) sustain less damage, enabling communities to recover quickly.

I think this is what the average citizen doesn’t realize. Building codes reassure people they will be safe if an earthquake strikes, but in doing so, they offer a false sense of security about what life will be like once the shaking stops. I don’t think many people realize that a building that meets the latest seismic codes may still be unusable after an earthquake.

So designing buildings to be minimally damaged by using innovative structural technologies (such as base isolation) to reduce earthquake demands and enhanced architectural detailing, could save a lot of heartache, disruption and expense. Arup’s research has shown the cost of repairing code-designed buildings following an earthquake is typically 20-25% of their value. And can you imagine surviving a major earthquake only to find your home uninhabitable and your business disrupted for years?

It’s almost unthinkable. As a result, Arup has developed a guideline to implement resilience-based earthquake design through a new rating system with support from multi-disciplinary design professionals and other stakeholders.

The highest level (Platinum) of our Resilience-based Earthquake Design Initiative (REDi) Rating System would see buildings designed so they could be re-occupied immediately. They would be functioning normally again within 72 hours and repairs would cost less than 2.5% of the building’s value.

Of course, such a high level of resilience comes at a price – but it’s not a significant one. We’ve established that stepping up from a conventional design to a REDi Gold rating (which corresponds to functionality within 30 days), adds less than 5% to construction costs.

Incentives could offset the small cost premium and encourage owners to adopt resilience-based design. Maybe cities or governments could offer flexibility in zoning requirements or insurance companies could offer lower premiums for buildings designed to be resilient. Or perhaps REDi Platinum rating could attract higher rents.

This will not happen overnight, but if we can replace our dilapidated building stock with resilient buildings (and infrastructure) over the course of a generation, we can ensure that San Francisco, and other cities susceptible to earthquakes, not only survives, but thrives after a major earthquake.


This post originally appeared on Arup Thoughts. 

Ibrahim Almufti is a structural engineer and specializes in resilience-based earthquake design.

Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media, jdmaahs[at]cfemedia.com.



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Water use efficiency: Diminishing water quality, escalating costs; Lowering building energy use; Power for fire pumps
Building envelope and integration; Manufacturing industrial Q&A; NFPA 99; Testing fire systems
Labs and research facilities: Q&A with the experts; Water heating systems; Smart building integration; 40 Under 40 winners
Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.