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Making buildings earthquake-proof - a new ISO standard will help

by Katie BIRD on
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Large crack in concrete wall
A new ISO standard will help developing countries assess the safety of buildings before and after earthquakes.

ISO 28841:2013, Guidelines for simplified seismic assessment and rehabilitation of concrete buildings, has been developed specifically for countries that do not have national building codes already in place.

The development and implementation of national building codes relies on having in-depth data on the characteristics of the region (physical, meteorological, geological, seismic, etc.). However, many countries do not have a collection of such data, which can be very resource-heavy.

A stand-alone solution

ISO 28841:2013 is a stand-alone solution that provides sufficient information on its own to allow designers to use it without supplementary, external data and without the use of sophisticated calculation tools. However, the guidelines are for relatively simple structures and building characteristics such as occupancy and number of stories should be considered.

"Instead of having to conduct a thorough structural analysis of the building, this standard contains guidelines to assess the seismic vulnerability with simple validated calculations for undamaged buildings, and to assess the damage and risk level for damaged buildings. Using it helps ensure the building is safe in a wide range of circumstances," explained Josef Farbiarz, project leader for the development of this standard.

"One downside to the simplified approach could be that the building uses slightly more building materials than is strictly necessary for the situation. But construction materials are significantly cheaper than getting hold of the necessary data and running the traditional assessment and design procedures; having a stand-alone solution is really valuable for developing countries," he added.

The standard can be used before an earthquake to assess a building's vulnerability, as well as after the event to decide on what repairs need to be made to ensure a safe structure.

A further standard for concrete bridges that follows a similar model, ISO 28842:2013 Guidelines for simplified design of reinforced concrete bridges is now also available. Both ISO 28841 and ISO 28842 refer to ISO 15673:2005 Guidelines for the simplified design of structural reinforced concrete for buildings.