Is your build­ing earth­quake proof? AD­VICE FOR HOME­BUY­ERS

Be­fore pur­chas­ing prop­erty, buy­ers should check for seis­mic per­for­mance of a build­ing that in­di­cates the health of a struc­ture after a ma­jor trem­blor

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - San­deep Don­ald Shah

Last week the world wit­nessed a spate of high­mag­ni­tude earth­quakes in Japan, Ecuador and Myan­mar. Roger Bil­ham, seis­mol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Colorado, who has stud­ied the seis­mic­ity of the Hi­malayan belt and is a worl­drenowned ex­pert in the field, has pre­dicted that four great earth­quakes are ex­pected to hit North In­dia, each of mag­ni­tude 8.0 or more. Dis­as­ter man­age­ment ex­perts from the min­istry of home af­fairs also echoed sim­i­lar views. The rup­ture of the Hi­malayan fault has be­gun and we will be see­ing pe­ri­odic earth­quakes for the next 20-25 years un­til all ac­cu­mu­lated strains are dis­si­pated.

It was as­ton­ish­ing to see the mag­ni­tude of de­struc­tion in Japan, a coun­try which has fol­lowed the world’s best quak­ere­sis­tant de­sign and con­struc­tion prac­tices for over four decades now, a coun­try where 100% of the pop­u­la­tion has been sen­si­tised to the dangers of earth­quakes and emer­gency drills are re­hearsed as a manda­tory re­quire­ment each month. As for In­dia, the coun­try has four unique dis­tinc­tions in the world when it comes to earth­quake safety. It is the only earth­quake-prone coun­try in the world that has not up­dated its two most im­por­tant seis­mic codes for 23 years and 14 years. Coun­tries in seis­mic zones have a sep­a­rate de­sign code for hos­pi­tals and emer­gency struc­tures.

In In­dia, the Supreme Court has passed ex­plicit in­struc­tions on earth­quake safety through a pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion. Our coun­try has the max­i­mum num­ber of quake-un­safe build­ings in the world.

The Supreme Court or­der on earth­quake safety vide its judg­ment dated De­cem­ber 5, 2014, on a pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion states that the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Author­ity ( NDMA) should un­der­take a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign on a na­tional ba­sis through print and elec­tronic me­dia. It states that all build­ings hous­ing more than 100 per­sons and all mul­ti­storey build­ings with more than five storeys, both new and old should have an en­graved metal plate men­tion­ing the earth­quake-re­sis­tant cat­e­gory of the build­ing. Ad­ver­tise­ments of all realty projects should carry the earth­quake-re­sis­tant cat­e­gory.

IIT-Roor­kee re­cently re­ported on the vul­ner­a­bil­ity and dan­ger of ‘flat slab’ build­ings col­laps­ing in the event of an earth­quake. Con­struc­tion of ‘flat-slab’ build­ings is not al­lowed in seis­mic zones 3, 4 and 5 but th­ese con­tinue to ex­ist, most of them in the high oc­cu­pancy cat­e­gory. When buy­ing a house, you should not shy away from ask­ing spe­cific ques­tions on earth­quake safety from the seller. Writ­ten records of the ques­tion­naire sent and re­sponses re­ceived should be saved. This will give le­gal tooth, if any­thing were to go wrong in fu­ture Earth­quake re­sis­tant build­ings are of 4 types, Type A - op­er­a­tional, Type B – im­me­di­ate oc­cu­pancy, Type C – life safety and Type D – col­lapse pre­ven­tion. Type A is the best and Type D the low­est. It is im­por­tant for oc­cu­pants of build­ings to know which cat­e­gory their build­ing falls in

Nearly 100% of the build­ings in In­dia are be­ing de­signed and con­structed under Cat­e­gory D or Col­lapse Pre­ven­tion stan­dard. Th­ese build­ings will get se­verely dam­aged and will not be hab­it­able or eco­nom­i­cally re­pairable after an earth­quake. Home­buy­ers should not get con­fused with state­ments like the build­ing has been de­signed to Zone 5 or Zone 4 stan­dards. Zones de­pict the seis­mic haz­ard and earth­quake re­sis­tance cat­e­gory de­picts the seis­mic per­for­mance of a build­ing A Type B build­ing will typ­i­cally cost ap­prox­i­mately ₹ 350 per sq ft more than a Type D build­ing. Type B build­ing will have min­i­mal struc­tural dam­age and will be struc­turally safe to oc­cupy and use even after a ma­jor earth­quake

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