Monday, December 13, 2010

Earthquake Building Code Principles Becoming Irrelevant


I've always been in conflict with our sappy building codes.  Basically, they've operated on a 'No Pancake' principle since the beginning of time.  Even so, the old boys club constantly fights upgrades to these codes, citing that the past is good enough.

But in the East, we aren't going to have pancaking, so it makes the codes useless.  We are going to have devastating economic damage, when all these lightweight buildings become unusable.  The insurance companies don't like this, especially after they were hosed by NZ!

Structural engineers who design cold-formed-steel buildings need more information about how the material will perform during earthquakes, Schafer said, in part because of revised thinking in the construction industry. “The old approach was to just make sure the building didn’t fall down in an earthquake, even if it was no longer safe or was too badly damaged to be used afterward,” he said. “Now, we’re focusing on what you can do to bring it up to a higher level of performance to make sure that the building can still be used after an earthquake, when desired.”

Some of the motivation for this is coming from the insurance companies and business owners who are economically tied to such structures. If a critical warehouse or a major customer service center can continue to operate after an earthquake, the business owners will likely incur lower losses. “For this reason, a sturdier building can lead to lower insurance rates and provide a level of business confidence for certain owners,” Schafer said.

The payout is huge for 'business interruption'.  All the buildings I see going up are designed on ultimate strength, with not much lateral stiffness.  I am sure no attention is paid to the foundation.  What's going to happen to the insides of these things?  What about the glass cladding?  When the earthquake happens with a wind chill of 40 below (like right now!) everything is destroyed.  So, I think the insurance companies will lead this, with lower rates to sturdier construction, and to heck with the building code!

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