Volume 18 Issue 2, 2003

Housing construction in earthquake-prone places: Perspectives, priorities and projections for development

James Lewis

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


It can no longer be assumed for all earthquake areas, as it was thirty years ago, that all architects and engineers are both accessible and competent for earthquake-resistant housing. There is a long overdue requirement for urban multi-storey and self-build small buildings to improve the standard of their construction. After almost every urban earthquake, the call goes out for building construction to be improved. But what are the requirements for improving building construction, and how can they be achieved; and are there other housing strategies to be considered for the achievement of earthquake disaster reduction as an integral part of sustainable development ? Continued attention to rural small buildings is not disputed, but there is now also a need for redress of an imbalance in the strategy, to reflect the need that clearly exists for more attention to all kinds of urban housing – but it is not only shortcomings in the application of building construction technology that is responsible for these circumstances; so are planning, management, administration and integrity. All forms of building construction involve a process of legitimate physical covering over of each stage of construction. As each stage is completed, it becomes concealed by a subsequent stage – from foundations under the ground through to the last coat of paint. For there to be as much certainty as possible, from stage to stage, in the achievement of construction quality, periodic, even constant, independent inspection of buildings under construction is necessary. Legislation does exist in the form of building regulations, codes, standards and guidelines in most countries, but legislation is insufficient without regular, strategic, informed and reliable inspection to ensure its enforcement. Earthquake-responsible development can achieve more by adopting earthquake awareness through all sectors; micro-zoning of earthquake risk can be used to modify population occupancy and to modify construction standards. Peru is an example of the practice and Turkey is an example of the need.