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Conflict and Natural Disasters
 
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Is the role of an architect to design earthquake resistant structures, develop construction technology, or to make strategic plans to deal with preparedness and response to natural calamity?

Or, is it something else? Do you have more ideas?
Ali Ahmed Shah
Responses
 
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
If an architect can be part of disaster management team, great alertness and sensitivity can be applied at the design level. Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotels in Japan in his early career keeping earthquakes in mind and they are very good examples even today.

Post 1950, as high-rises became statements of style, it is said "earthquakes do not kill, buildings do." because people who are not in collapsing structures tend to survive. And, no building is collapse-proof, architects therefore need to study past data like climatology, before executing a building.
Dushyant Nathwani
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Ali Ahmed,

an architect could do any and all of the activities you mention.

So far, I have yet to see or hear of any group of architects who are dedicated to working in this field. I imagine the international disaster agencies most probably have their own architects and there is probably communication and cooperation between them, but I doubt that data gathered for their own use is available for private architects.

Given that millions of people live in earthquake zones all around the world, design and technology data should be freely available, but how many schools of architecture and how many architects' associations actively see this particular issue as important?

From what I have read in this forum, schools of architecture seem to focus exclusively upon the design of disaster camps, which leaves the field wide open.

People actively avoid thinking about disasters because they are depressing, and so thinking about future disasters is "ill-wishing," like the saying "Think of the Devil, and he will appear".

But avoiding the issue means doing nothing when you know that sooner or later there will be a disaster, "an accident waiting to happen" and "an accident waiting to happen" is avoidable, and not an accident.

In other words: "Preventative Design" for all new buildings and "Retroactive Design" for existing buildings; based upon factual knowledge of what stands up and what falls down in earthquakes.

Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Thanks Nathwani and Frank John Snelling for brilliant ideas. Well, I agree that there is a scarcity of disaster management courses in architectural schools. But, I believe that architecture is a tool to cope with these natural disasters... Well, actually I wish to test this challenge in my thesis project, especially focussing on earthquakes.

Nathwani, could you tell me more about Gujarat earthquake disaster, how you see the architect's role in this post disaster scenario? What can be a real, practical and sustainable role?
Ali Ahmed Shah
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Well, a few of my architect friends had to face the music because their buildings failed in the Gujarat earthquake.

They and others have tightened their grip on structure and become sricter with site inspections and the grade of steel that they utilize. In today's times, technology is advanced enough to calculate loads well; even the foundation in a high rise can make the structure shock-proof. Practitioners of the trade have awakened and now respect design standards that they used to avoid in the past to economise.

Dushyant Nathwani
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Dushyant,

You reminded me of a book by and about the life of Nikita Khrushchev of the USSR. A factory making "3x ply radial tyres" (using technology brought in from outside the USSR) was opened, and for a time the tyres they manufactured were good.

But after some time the quality of the tyres became very bad and there were many blow-outs on the roads. So he went to investigate and found that the factory manager had decided the steel mesh reinforcement was not needed and so was not put on the tyres.

The moral of the tale is: there is a reason for making something the way it was originally designed. :)

Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Happy New Year to everyone in the Forum.

Designing does not mean sitting in the desk and designing with paper and pencil.

Designing itself involves a lot of pre-design and post-design work. Ideally, the design is suited for the location and time. Very general data is available on the net. You may check various Indian sites which give an idea of disaster zoning of India. One of them is: http://www.bmtpc.org/

However, the role of an architect does not end there; the design should be correctly implemented. Post-implementation, the design should be user friendly. By this, I mean that the pre-design exercise should be good enough to make sure that the design IS user friendly).

Architects can also take part in awareness generation campaigns by social NGOs.

Dushyant and Frank: You have struck the right chord in the actual state of affairs. People know what to do, but till a disaster strikes, they will take short cuts to success.

Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, Happy New Year :) Reading your entry reminded me of something.

Up to about 75 years ago, architects used to have plaques with their name and date put on the front wall. In this way, these plaques would be an useful advertisement for the architect.

So maybe it would be a good idea to reintroduce "architect plaques" for people to know who designed them. I realise this could cause problems for the architects of poorly designed buildings, but perhaps it would also encourage better design in the future?

Another thought was: Whether or not it was usual for architects to check their built designs at five year intervals, to check whether or not their designs met the needs of the owner/occupier?
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Frank,

Plaques, or rather, advertisement boards are put up by many architects during construction... but then how does it matter?

Let me inform you that in India, approximately two-thirds of construction is government funded. One-third is private funded construction in the organised sector and is done quite well by corporate houses, well known developers, etc.

There is an invisible segment, w.r.t. architects+engineers which are the middle and lower income groups (MIG and LIG) which hardly consult architects and engineers, and stay in houses that will spell disaster. The primary problem lies not just with the architect and engineer, but also with the contractor and the owner.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, Okay, a bigger wall plaque with architect, engineer, contractor, developer, original owner, etc. :)

While I realise buildings fall down in earthquakes even when well designed and well built, it is the other buildings designed poorly and built cheaply by developers, contractors, which bring architecture into disrepute.

As for solving the problem of poorly built buildings, both trained workmen and trained engineers are needed and perhaps as the government funds two-thirds of buildings then perhaps money should be put into "apprenticeship" training to create a skilled workforce?

Another aspect of good construction work is the use of "foreman" and "clerk of works" to control both materials and workmen on building sites.

I do not know how buildings are built in India, but if contractors hire cheap unskilled "casual labour" by the day then the quality of the work done will not be very good. It is not only that the workforce is (probably) unskilled, but that anyone hired "by the day" will have very little interest in good work.

The upgrading of the skills of workmen pays for itself in better work done. The management of the site by foreman and clerk of works upgrades the quality of the work done, with better useage of, and less "wastage" of materials.

The bottom line, is that if poor work is done then sooner or later it has to be repaired several times and this is not an economic way to build. Whereas, if the work is done right in the first place there is no need for repairs.
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Frank,

Training the workers? How will a middle or low income person building a house in his / her plot fund it?

You see most of blunders happen due to wrong planning of projects or use of .. yes you are correct to some extent person with inadequate skills.

This problem is very minute in large or comfortable size projects.

I have seen many a MIG or LIG house being built in the wrong way not because skills are unavailable, but because choice of skills by the owner, under-use of engineer's or architect's knowledge and skills.

Problem is lack of awareness amongst the user rather than skills in the market.

One sees a lot of problems like a lot of reinforcement being used, but in the wrong place in the beams or slabs. Or too less cement being used to save money in the wrong way. It is such problems that arise out of wrong planning or probably no planning at all that lead to technical failures in buildings.

In the end it is the person who stays inside the building, suffers. All in all it is entirely a lack of awareness.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Happy new year to all.

As to the matter of 'how to build' to survive earthquakes, and the part the architects play in the whole process: I have been watching this discussion for a while now and was going to make an entry the other day. Anyway, as far as building technology and design data required to make a building 'more' likely to survive an earthquake; it need not be kept for the rich and famous, the poor and lowly should have access to the same information as well. The methods of building are not solely for the use of by the 'professionals', and there should be no disadvantage to the worker of houseowner. It is still the job of the architect to make detailed drawings for the major buildings, and to include drawings of 'bracing' walls and panels, but the more simpler housing designs, could be generated by the likes of ourselves and then distributed to the village people and with a few dozen workshops help in the communities, we can pass on the technology to those that need it the most. That will give a chance to the community to learn to build to survive.

Me and my crew are still awaiting our final arrival dates in Pakistan, we are being held up by others but will be there soon. I would like to be included in a 'design group' to come up with simple solutions to building methods that the local villages can use. Yes, you need site-overseers and foremen on the sites but the local owner-builder only needs to understand how to build a strong earthquake resistant home. He does not have to pay someone else to do it for him. Let's talk some more about this. (Hi Frank)

Ciao for now,
David Michael James Davies
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Both aspects are important:

The technology to get simple buildings earthquake (and cyclone) resistant is rather simple. It starts with the design ( e.g. size of openings and their position).

And then it is a question of awareness, especially in the supervision. As the technology is rather simple it is mostly a problem of mind set to get the proper placement of the reinforcement etc., even if the design is correct.

I have seen a lot of post disaster reconstruction (and did large projects). It should be alarming, when you see what goes wrong in too many projects. But there are also positive examples.
Norbert E. Wilhelm
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, Yes, I know I am blundering about with no experience of conditions in India. Okay, it is not the lack of skills but their inappropriate use.

So a good role for an architect in an earthquake disaster zone is putting on workshops (as Dave said) for people to design and build their own homes.

I realise this may seem a contradiction in terms (architects telling people how to design and build their own homes), but if LIG and MIG people can not pay for workmen or expert advice then this is a niche market which needs filling.

Maybe the government could fund these "disaster zone" workshops?

Dave, I wait for you to arrive. :)))
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Last 2-3 posts gave me a feeling that Dave is planning a grand entrance in the scene here :)) In the Movie called "Dave & ..."
:)) Just joking

Dave, yes you will need good supervisors.

1. Above all a good grasp of local language & customs will help you a lot in doing those essential things like procuring the right size of nuts & bolts or the right grade of cement for your construction.. You ofcourse can do with a translator .. initially.. but on the long run your grasp in local ways will help.
That was the free & unasked for general advice.

2. In case it is a public utility building like school, shopping, office, hospital, etc., just make sure that the technology is good & repairable in case of future damage. However in case you wish to use your technology for local houses, unless post construction measures like repair & maintenance aspects are addressed, your technology will remain in books as a face value exercise of a `nice' (meant as polite) thing to have happenned in the village of ___' Though generally speaking the term post construction R&M is valid for any building, but this segment needs things that are readily available & can be had at cheaper price (there goes in the thin air your corporate goals)... Just remember that a small slice of soap cake also sells.. So small (price) is beautiful.. So is sturdiness in general with rural folks.
I hope you get my point.

I'll agree with Norbert E. Wilhelm's post.

Frank I think you have got it right. But then just workshops are'nt enough, so construction & awareness of the correct process & procedures amongst MIG, LIG, etc. is very essential.

Earthquakes have definitely played a part of making (rather,.. forcing) people to be aware. People did get a bit careless by not following safety norms.. because of the feeling that "The sky will not fall on my head ... atleast in this lifetime". :-))
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Hey Chitradeep,

I do not need to make grand entrances, the projects we are involved in are humanitarian efforts, and I do come with my own translator who actually will also be the site supervisor. He is from Sri Lanka and has already worked in Pakistan before and other countries around the area. We also have a team in Pakistan, doing a look around right now, finding out where the local suppliers are, and have had many weeks emailing companies in the greater area to establish contact and learn what they know. I have worked with many methods of construction and know that not every job can be built using the same technology, and am aware that these buildings need to be maintained in years to come. That is all part of the craft of architecture; longevity, as well the appreciation of the local styles and codes and ethics.

Anyway, enough explaining. I am pleased this discussion is progressing so well. I will post another update as soon as I know when we are moving. Until then, ciao,

Dave
David Michael James Davies
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Dave,

Wish you all the best.

What is it that you are `localising' in the technology?
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, How about a travelling theatre troupe/ architectural roadshow?
Called "See how to build your home and live through an earthquake?"

The problem for most people, is that not many want to remember bad events, but by not remembering then not much is learnt on "How to do better next time".

The difficulty is in drawing attention to the need for better buildings next time without causing people pain.

Simply pointing out to people "their home fell down and killed loved ones' because they do not know how to build" rubs salt into their guilt and grief.

Therefore, a practical workshop team / theatre troupe, travelling about the disaster zone should focus on the ways to build better for the future.

Yes, reactions from the audiences will be mixed and often upsetting, but the past needs to be recognised as the past and not the present or the future.

A cynic once said "What we learn from history is that no one learns from history." But this is true only if people refuse to learn from events in the past. Yes, no one wants bad events, but to not learn from bad events, means the bad event has a bad effect not only in the past, but in the present time and then repeatedly in the future.

A child puts his hand onto a hot stove by accident and "learns" through pain not to do it again. But, the child also learns how to use other means to handle the problem. If the child never learnt how to do it better in the future. Then he would always be afraid of stoves.
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Frank,
To the best of my knowledge, these techniques that you have described as `road shows' are being tried out by some dedicated NGOs in Maharashtra, Gujrat (earthquake), Tamil Nadu, Indonesia, (Tsunami), & I believe it will pick up in Kashmir.

Idea, is not just educating the house owner, but training him / her in the `appropriate' building technology. & Before that happens, it is also making sure that the appropriate building technology is really appropriate & that it will be available.

Hence maximisation of local resources are required.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, Good to hear about the road shows. In the past, travelling troupes acted as 'newspapers' for the general public by passing on news from other areas. Seeing and hearing a live person speaking about events elsewhere gives an immediacy and much more impact than watching the same news on a TV, because the TV speaker is talking at an object (the TV camera) without an audience.

You are right, maximisation of local resources is a must. I would imagine a part of the problem for rural areas, is the lack of access, because "one-way no-through roads" make supply from the outside difficult and uneconomic.

And if that is the case, then remoter villages need the introduction of new local micro-industries to become more self-suffient and so self-sustaining.
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Yes Frank,

You are right on the point. Accessibility is a major factor, which is why the country's roads are being added to. Because building materials can travel only through a physical mode like trucks, trains, etc., rather than radio waves (we are quite some years away from the `atomised transportation' I guess) :-))
More important still is Making sure that the rural person builds with affordcable, local & renewable resources which is why bamboo, wood (natural), cement (flyash / slag / waste based), etc. are more viable than soil products like bricks. Though well made bricks have very good quality (due to soil conditions also).
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, Thank you. :) Given that I feel there is a need for micro-industry in the remoter rural areas.

Can I assume that the Kashmir could support micro-wind / water generators, one per village?

There are a lot of commercial designs for small wind-generators usable for households and if every village had one then they could power households, micro-industry and provide outside contact.
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Yes Frank,

Most villages in India would like to be in a situation where they have their own little power generating unit. However, the rate at which the government provides subsidised electricity to rural areas is far cheaper than what these units will be able to provide.

Most similar units do provide electricity at a higher charge per unit than the 'un-subsidised' rates of the national power grid.

The equation is very simple. One is a small scale production, hence rate/unit is high, the other is a national scale production, hence the rate is low.

Even solar cells are quite far off from rapid commercialized uses.

What about wind?
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, I assume these power-generating units in villages use some type of (coal/oil/petrol) fossil-fuel?

And I was talking about wind / water powered generating units. The basic principles are very simple(*) and so small robust units could be made.

(*) (a) a wind or water flow, (b) a rotating wheel driven by the flow and (c) a dynamo to create electricity.

In the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the first cotton-mills and other factories were powered by water. The water flow over a wheel would drive a rotating shaft and then this motion would be transferred via belts to all of the machines.

Later, when other means of power generation were used, such as steam-powered engines then the belts to the machines were driven in the same way.

And I assume the early cotton-mills in India used this sort of technology?

Technology, simply because it is "out of date" should not be dismissed or discarded. The Industrial Revolution in Britain started in hundreds of small workshops which were gradually absorbed into larger workshops and factories.

Just after WWII my father worked for the Indian Government on the Bharkra Hydro-Electric Dam in the foothills of the Himalayas, but I would assume most of this power is fed to the cities.
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Frank,

Nice to learn of your 'Indian' connection.

Bhakra Nangal project was a huge project. Yes, cities consume a larger share of the electricity than the rural aeas. Furthermore, the power supply is very irregular in rural areas.

Please share your knowledge on wind power. I am told that although it is a cheap form of electricity, huge 'collection' cells are required to store electricity because of its dependence on a supply of 'wind'. How is this tackled?
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep,

I have thought about this problem of "variable winds" which create a variable live supply of electric power, meaning that electrical equipment does not work very well.

My low-tech solution is as follows:- (a) built a small windmill, (b) build two reservoirs, (c) use the windmill to mechanically pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. (c) Then use the stored energy potential of the water in the upper reservoir to run a water-wheel or turbine at a constant speed to drive the electric dynamo.

The above is "a closed cycle" solution for areas with no running water. Where there is running water, such as a stream or river, then a micro-version of the Bharkra Dam should work. :)

I know that in the past, the telephone branch of the postal service used to use large "dry cell" batteries to power the national telephone network in Britain, but I do not know if this type of electrical battery technology is environmentally-friendly enough today.

The problem with modern wind turbines (apart from their enormous size), is that fossil-fuel generators are used as a backup for when the wind falls below the speed needed to turn the enormous blades. This fossil-fuel use then (to my mind) defeats the whole purpose of using the wind for power generation.

I believe you can get more and more detailed data on the smaller modern windmill type generators used today for single houses from the Centre for Intermediate Technology in Wales. :)

Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Frank,

Your idea will probably be more useful for Jason in Florida.
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep,

My entry above would not be useful for Jason in Florida, because he wants a building designed to withstand very high winds.

In America, most of the housing is made of wood and many of the retail street stores have huge glass fronts. So, no surprise to me that they get completely blown away in hurricane winds.

In fact, my entry above is a low-tech way of handling variable wind speeds which cause fluctuations in electric power generation. Of course using both a two stage process and water-powered mechanical raising water means a loss in efficiency, but it would be a robust type of electric power supply.

The only "fly in the ointment" with water reservoirs is freezing cold. I am reminded of this because here in Turkey we're in the fourth day of an arctic snow blizzard and I would say that the "wind chill" is about -40 C. :(((
Frank John Snelling
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Frank,

I can't read temperatures below 0 degrees C. (Just joking). I never knew that Turkey could be that cold. -40 deg C.? There must be chill in the air, and moisture (I mean the frozen ones) too.

Wooden and glass construction is something that should be done very carefully in a hurricane-prone zone.

I am aware of that construction, which is why I wrote about RCC. RCC is also easily available and it can be finished to give a wooden feeling. However it can't be dismantled. But its heavy weight is the main advantage against hurricanes.

Reinforced/toughened glass in metal frames could resist high speed winds to some extent. Plain glass won't.

Water reservoirs can work in temperate to hot zones of the earth. -40 deg C would probably be asking too much from water... :-)
Chitradeep Sengupta
Role of an architect in earthquake disasters
Chitradeep, I never knew Turkey got that cold either! Actually my -40 C is a guess, but probably right on the Wind Chill alone. We had a blizzard here for about four days with a constant wind blowing from the North. The snow was being driven in the air horizontally.

Yesterday this deadly, bitter, howling wind stopped and the sun came out and some of the snow melted. I can only imagine that the Bosphorus (next to Istanbul) which is the sea link between the Black Sea and Meditterranean Sea; acts as a wind tunnel between mountains in Europe (Albania) and mountains in Asia Minor (Asian Turkey).

I would hope that the Kashmir (on the southern side of the Himalayas) does not get these Arctic Siberian Winds?
Frank John Snelling
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