Nation e-Edition

We can still beat the quake

By Grenville Phillips II

| Fri, December 07, 2012 - 12:00 AM


The transition from chattel houses to concrete block-walled ones is normally a reliable development indicator.

Haiti experienced a similar pattern of residential development from their traditional wooden forms, which were vulnerable to hurricanes, to concrete block and reinforced concrete construction that proved fatally vulnerable to earthquakes.

Barbadians appear to have used at least four major types of mass housing. We have evidence of stone masonry buildings designed to survive hurricanes. The second mass building type is the timber framed chattel house, which could be built, repaired and strengthened relatively easily and economically.

The third mass building type is reinforced masonry. However, most of these buildings appear to be unnecessarily vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake due to commonly avoidable critical mistakes made during their design and construction.

The most recent peer-reviewed study estimates over 100 000 casualties in Barbados from a major earthquake. It should be noted that Haiti suffered over 300 000 fatalities in the 2010 earthquake from similarly avoidable mistakes.

The most recent mass produced residential building type is the reinforced concrete precast house. Precast panels that rely on welded connections are vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake.

We can still avoid the misery that normally attends a major natural hazard by building better new buildings and strengthening our existing ones.

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