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  • Michael L Bergonzi

Earthquake Preparation Starts with Engineering

This is not meant to be a how-to guide or advice on civil engineering and/or earthquake preparation.

The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria are a reminder that just because a building was up to code a decade ago doesn't mean they are ready for the ground underneath them to shift. Larry Fahnestock a University of Illinois Civil Engineering professor said that what we see in the footage on news outlets are destroyed buildings made of concrete and little to no steel reinforcements.

Larry Fahnestock

Richard Paradis is a certified Noise Control Engineer and member of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). In an article, he wrote that when you want to renovate an old building there are a few things to keep in mind. Cost and energy conservation are two big reasons for wanting to update buildings. in 2016, 40 percent of the United State's total energy consumption came from the heating and cooling systems of buildings. As a noise control engineer, Paradis' job is to take into account not only sounds but the physics that produces them. Those being vibrations.

Properly planning what you want to be done can also help with a lower-end cost, increase its value on the market and contribute to a healthier environment in which people can safely live and work. If you can plan these three objectives early on, you'll save in the long run. Not just money, but the environment as well.

A strategy for improving sustainability according to Paradis is developing a plan to reuse debris from demolition. This avoids the environmental impact of too much waste in landfills. Determining whether a building needs its own power when part of a cluster of buildings can also help with energy consumption. Adding another means of drawing power may not be the best solution.

There are many ways to improve a building's health, safety, and welfare (HSW), but how do engineers help with mitigating the damage caused by earthquakes? How easy is it to apply new materials and techniques to an already-built building?

It's easier than one might think. According to Old House Journal Magazine, retrofitting may be all that's required to make an older building more stable. Some ways to increase stability might include building a good foundation. A foundation can be natural or man-made. In most cases, a wooden house on a hill with nothing underneath it won't stand up to an earthquake. If a foundation is built underneath with ideally reinforced concrete. One issue someone might find is the fact that most old houses built foundations with non-reinforced concrete, brick, stone or even wood. The latter three materials being unsafe in the long and short of it, especially ones that aren't reinforced.

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