There is a dire need to preserve the vernacular architecture, not only for its traditional character but also for being earthquake-resistant.
On February 06, 2023, two major earthquakes – measuring 7.8 and 7.5 on the magnitude scale – flattened several buildings and killed thousands of people across southern Turkey and northern Syria. It was also one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the Levant. It was felt as far as Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Black Sea coast of Turkey.
In less than two weeks, another massive quake ripped through an adjacent region. Shortly after 8pm local time on February 20, a tremor struck near the city of Antakya, the capital of Turkey’s Hatay province, near the border with Syria. The 6.4 magnitude quake was followed by a 5.8 magnitude aftershock three minutes later, and then by 31 lower-intensity aftershocks.
In Turkey—a country nestled between several plate boundaries and located directly on two main fault zones, the East Anatolian and the North Anatolian—earthquakes are a fact of life.
Around three-quarters of all deaths in earthquakes are due to building collapse, and it’s the poor people who bear the brunt. In a world of increased urban densification, rapidly expanding informal settlements and development that outstrips a government’s ability to enforce standards, it is poorly designed and constructed buildings, not earthquakes, which are the real catastrophe. The country’s disaster agency said that more than 5,600 buildings across south-eastern Turkey had collapsed.
After the latest earthquake, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said: “Significant casualties are likely.” Part of the reason is because the population in the region “resides in structures that are a mix of vulnerable and earthquake resistant construction. The predominant vulnerable building types are adobe block and dressed stone / block masonry construction.”
The materials aren’t the only point of concern, though. The failure to adhere to safety requirements during construction is another big red flag. In 2019, President Erdoğan boasted of awarding several builders an amnesty, retroactively legalizing thousands of buildings that failed to meet earthquake construction standards as long as fines were paid.
Ten years after a 1999 earthquake in İzmit, that killed over 17,000 people, the Turkish government established the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) to help cope in the face of natural disasters. The government also pledged new construction standards and a plan to strengthen the existing buildings.
The plan involved designating hundreds of urban spaces as evacuation points in the face of an emergency. But, over the years, an explosion of new developments undid many of the planned earthquake readiness improvements and open-air evacuation zones were converted into high rises. Some of those protections have been lost in a rush to develop urban green spaces into lucrative apartment buildings and shopping malls.
At the end of 2022, following a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, Turkey’s Union of Engineers and Architects released a statement saying that Turkey “has failed in terms of what needs to be done before the earthquake… some 7 million buildings in Turkey are still unsafe, 2 million of them in Istanbul.”
The union further said that site supervision “continues to be seen as a procedure on paper only,” noting that, “it is essential that the design, construction and inspection processes are carried out in a correct and vigorous way in order to ensure the safety of buildings against earthquakes. In each of these three pillars of safe construction, it is known that there are serious problems, both legally and in practice.”
Dr. H. Kit Miyamoto, a structural engineer at Miyamoto International says that in 1997, Turkey passed a code that required buildings to be constructed using ductile concrete, a material that is more flexible in the event of an earthquake, but estimates that only one in 10 buildings in the country meets the standard, as old buildings are often reused rather than razed down to meet new standards.
Even still, engineers can reinforce older buildings through retrofitting, a process that is more cost-effective than constructing a building from scratch. But Miyamoto, who has worked with the World Bank to retrofit schools in Turkey, says that it is difficult to force private buildings to do so.
“It costs on average 10-15% of the replacement cost,” says Miyamoto. “You could retrofit eight buildings for the price of [building] one but seismic retrofitting does not add market value.”
The construction industry is a big source of money. This allows the government to turn a blind eye to looser regulation on sites. The fact that even some of the newest apartment blocks crumbled to dust has led to urgent questions about building safety standards.
Modern construction techniques should mean buildings can withstand quakes of this magnitude, which require structures in earthquake-prone regions to use high-quality concrete reinforced with steel bars. Columns and beams must be distributed to effectively absorb the impact of earthquakes. And regulations following previous disasters in the country were supposed to ensure these protections were built in.
With so many buildings having collapsed across the stricken region, many in Turkey have been asking questions about the nature of the building regulations. Although the quakes were powerful, experts say properly constructed buildings should have been able to stand.
“The maximum intensity for this earthquake was violent but not necessarily enough to bring well-constructed buildings down,” says Prof David Alexander, an expert in emergency planning and management at University College London. “In most places the level of shaking was less than the maximum, so we can conclude out of the thousands of buildings that collapsed, almost all of them don’t stand up to any reasonably expected earthquake construction code,” he says.
“In part, the problem is that there’s very little retrofitting of existing buildings, but there’s also very little enforcement of building standards on new builds,” informs Prof Alexander.
BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Tom Bateman, spoke to people in the southern city of Adana who said one collapsed building there was damaged 25 years ago in another quake but was left without any proper retrofitting.
Countries such as Japan, where millions of people live in densely populated high-rise buildings despite the country’s history of severe earthquakes, show how building regulations can help to keep people safe in disasters.
Construction safety requirements vary depending on a building’s use and its proximity to areas most at risk of earthquakes, from simple strengthening to motion dampers throughout the building to placing the entire structure on top of a giant shock absorber, to isolate it from the movement of the ground.
Engineers in Turkey had been raising fears over poorly constructed buildings for years given the country’s vulnerability to huge earthquakes. Concerns only grew after a 2018 law provided amnesty for buildings with illegal construction, allowing them to be used as long as the owners paid a fine to the state.
In Turkey, however, the government has provided periodic “construction amnesties” – effectively legal exemptions for the payment of a fee, for structures built without the required safety certificates. These have been passed since the 1960s (with the latest in 2018).
Up to 75,000 buildings across the affected earthquake zone in southern Turkey have been given construction amnesties, according to Pelin Pınar Giritlioğlu, Istanbul head of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects’ Chamber of City Planners.
Just a few days before the latest disaster, Turkish media reported that a new draft law is awaiting parliamentary approval which would grant a further amnesty for recent construction work. Geologist Celal Sengor said earlier this year that passing such construction amnesties in a country riven by fault lines amounts to a “crime.”
Opposition parties have accused Erdogan’s government of not enforcing building regulations and misspending special taxes levied after the last major earthquake in 1999 in order to make buildings more resistant to quakes.
After a deadly earthquake hit the western province of Izmir in 2020, a BBC Turkish report found that 672,000 buildings in Izmir had come under the most recent amnesty. This same report quoted the Environment and Urbanisation Ministry saying that in 2018 more than 50% of buildings in Turkey – equivalent to almost 13 million buildings – were constructed in violation of regulations.
However, a tiny city in Turkey’s southern Hatay province, Erzin, is an oasis of safety and normality. While life throughout the region has been overturned by last week’s earthquake, residents and officials say Erzin suffered no deaths and saw no buildings collapse in the powerful temblor, and they credit a longstanding determination not to allow construction that violated the country’s codes.
The government has vowed a thorough investigation and ordered detention of more than 200 people over collapsed buildings, though the opposition groups have accused President Erdogan of failing to ensure that the regulations are properly enforced while anger has grown over the issue.
In the Gujarat earthquake of January 26, 2001, more than anything, it was corruption that killed people. The intraplate earthquake measured 7.6 on the moment magnitude scale. The earthquake killed 13,805 to 20,023 people (including 18 in south-eastern Pakistan), injured another 167,000 and destroyed nearly 340,000 buildings.
Gujarat lies 300–400 km from the plate boundary between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate, but the current tectonics are still governed by the effects of the continuing continental collision along this boundary. The related folding has formed a series of ranges, particularly in central Kutch. Kutch is in zone V of earthquake map of India as per IS 1893.
80 buildings of four storeys and over came crashing down in the quake. As many as 700 people died in the rubble of bargain homes in Ahmedabad.
While bringing down scores of high-rise buildings and killing hundreds of their residents, the January 26 earthquake exposed the weak foundations of Ahmedabad’s building boom.
Cases were filed by the dozen and builders and officials who have had anything to do with the fallen buildings were being charged with culpable homicide and criminal conspiracy. Nearly all the builders who were being charged had fled the city.
In the whole building construction system, lot of people are to blame: officials who certified the safety of unsafe structures, builders who followed corrupt practices in their greed and the politicians who used their influence to facilitate illegal construction.
Considering earthquake forces as per codes, correct analysis, design and detailing of the frames are required to make frame structure earthquake resistant. It was seen that in the megacity of Ahmedabad and Bhuj, major failures occurred due to violation or ignorance of codal provisions. Govindrao Tambe, a construction engineer who teaches at the Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environment Planning and Technology and was actively involved in building earthquake-resistant houses in Latur had said: “Many Ahmedabad buildings that caved in were so poorly designed and constructed that they were incapable of bearing vertical and horizontal loads.”
Independent media investigations, judicial interventions, and general public pressure on the State government to get to the bottom of the mess, resulted in the unravelling of a full-fledged scandal. Police investigations and media reports brought to light violations on a large scale of construction standards and building bylaws by influential builders, the negligence of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) and a nexus involving builders, politicians and the administration.
Apart from these standard violations, builders also compromised on the quantity and use of steel and concrete. They got away with these violations as the municipal corporation and the AUDA rarely conducted inspections. Finally, most builders did not obtain the completion certificate from either the municipal corporation or the AUDA.
Other factors that led to the problem, were the restrictive provisions of the Land Ceiling Act (repealed by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 1999), which created a shortage of land and thus pushed up urban land prices. Builders took advantage of this shortage by building vertically. Other factors that contributed were complicated building bylaws, a tortuous procedure to get plans sanctioned and the lack of proper monitoring during construction.
Neither the municipal corporation nor the AUDA has gone public with the list of erring builders. News reports in the Gujarat press spoke of how the files that contained building plans had mysteriously disappeared. One report said that they were burnt during the riots in 1991 while another says that they were destroyed in the floods of the previous year.
The municipal corporation and the AUDA could not have led a public confidence-building campaign given their own culpability. In the circumstances, they made the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad, the nodal agency to assess and classify the extent of damage to buildings.
Vernacular Architecture of India
About 50 million years ago, the Indian plate slammed into the Eurasian plate and began diving under it at a great velocity of about 40-50 millimetre/year in the north-northeast direction. This process is still going on and the collision zone actually wraps around the northwest projection of the Indian subcontinent in the Hindu Khush region of Tajikistan and Afghanistan and then extends to the southeast through Nepal and Bhutan. The compressive stress created by this northward motion is being absorbed at the inter-plate boundary and, during this process, while the Indian plate is getting squeezed and becoming smaller, the Eurasian plate is getting lifted up and a fraction (15-20 mm/yr) of that relative motion of 40-50 mm/yr is what is driving the formation of the Himalayan mountain range across the 2,400-km-long frontal arc of the plate south of Tibet in the east-west direction. This accumulation of tectonic compressive stress across the inter-plate boundary gives way when it exceeds a certain limit, resulting in an earthquake, usually along existing fault planes.
Because of this continuing build-up of stress, the Himalayan region is a highly earthquake-prone region which has seen many large earthquakes and consequent heavy destruction.
The vernacular architecture of India is an example of sustainable building practices being specific to geographical and climatic responses, and socio-cultural traditions of communities. The vernacular is built with local materials, expertise and techniques which developed over a period of time with a deep understanding of building material and location specific needs, unlike the blanket modern construction.
In India, approximately 59% of the landmass is prone to seismic activity. It is the vernacular architecture that has stood the test of time with earthquake resistant features developed by the local communities. Some examples of such construction techniques include:
- Koti Banal – named after a village in the Rajgarhi area of Uttarakhand where 2-7 storied buildings are constructed with timber reinforced dry stone masonry.
- Kath Kuni (wood corner) – a building technique of Himachal Pradesh which is also dry masonry with horizontal spanning timber members which overlapped corners.
- Bhunga – a cylindrical building type developed after the 1819 earthquake in the Kutch region of Gujarat.
- Taq and Dhajji Dewari – the seismic resistant building techniques of Kashmir. The brick masonry walls have timber sections embedded at regular intervals to pre-stress the wall. Dhajji Dewari comes from the Persian word meaning patchwork quilt wall which is essentially timber braced walls with brick masonry infill. Since the walls are relatively thin, the mass of the building is reduced which help to resist the inertial forces during an earthquake.
Traditional Anti-seismic Design of Kashmir
Nestled in the Himalaya Mountains, Kashmir inhabits a crossroads between the Middle East and Asia. Kashmir’s valleys and snow-clad peaks have historically hosted divergent cultures and housed scholarly learning centers. Its natural resources and complex heritage have attracted tourists and border disputes.
Kashmir also lies atop a web of active geological faults. It’s placed on the boundary of two colliding tectonic plates: the small Indian plate that underlies most of India and Pakistan, including much of Kashmir and the vast Eurasian plate that underlies Europe, China, Russia, and much of the Middle East.
Sudden and rapid releases of seismic stress can cause large earthquakes. And sometimes, an abrupt movement along a shallow fault can rupture the surface, as happened during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. This surface rupture extended for seventy-five kilometers (forty-seven miles) and was a first among earthquakes in the Himalaya seismic zone.
The Kashmir earthquake killed nearly 75,000 people, injured more than 100,000 people, and destroyed 3 million homes.
Earthquakes have occurred regularly over the centuries in Kashmir and people have learnt to live with it. Many towns and villages are found on soft soils or on former prehistoric lakes, therefore it is essential to have characteristic yet simple residential houses. For example, in places with soft water-laden soils, the evolution of timber-laced construction is a necessity for structural survival in the long term. These buildings tend to lean and tilt slightly with little rigidity.
Timber-laced masonry construction systems in Kashmir date back to the 12th century, however it was only in the beginning of the 19th century that these systems split into two main traditional construction styles—taq and Dhajji dewari. Other earthquake-resistant vernacular constructions surfaced in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake, such as balconies resting on wooden joists, well-designed trusses and ceilings with joists that rested on the wooden built bands spread across walls. Therefore, the major factors that controlled vernacular architecture are access to good soil for brick-making, water and timber, as well as earthquake resistance.
The two old construction systems known as taq and dhajji-dewari exist with tested quake-resistant features. Later medieval structures, especially the shrines, were made of an economical and lightweight combination of mud, stone and brick tied together with timber. This construction system with its use of masonry laced together with timber, which is mentioned in texts from the 12th century, was the beginning of the urban architecture in the vale of Kashmir as we know it today. Srinagar and other cities and villages in Kashmir are distinguished not only by their great monuments, but also by their vernacular residential architecture, generated out of a distinctive use of materials and the way of building adapted to the local climate, culture and natural environment, principally the soft soils and the earthquake risk in the region.
Traditionally, buildings are divided into two categories while incorporating Kashmiri house design, depending on their floor plans. These are the square and linear plan houses, both of which include windows in all directions. Each dwelling is built with a zoon dab, which is an overhanging balcony, intended for watching the moon (zoon). The staircases and eaves are decorated with exquisite pinjrakari craftsmanship. Architectural elements such as khatamband panels, interwoven wooden geometric forms originating from the Persian culture, can be seen on the internal ceilings of a Kashmiri house design. These are made of walnut or deodar as also is the wall panelling.
The traditional Kashmiri house designs are further classified as either taq architecture or dhajji dewari based on the building style used. These have been the two most common vernacular construction systems of Kashmir, of which several examples still exist in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley.
Taq/ bhattar (single window with double shutters) construction is a composite system of building with a modular layout of load-bearing masonry piers and window bays tied together with ladder-like constructions of horizontal timbers embedded in the masonry walls at each floor level and window lintel level. This method of construction resists the propagation of cracks due to earthquakes. The masonry piers are usually 1-2 feet square and the window bay/ alcove (taqshe) 3-to 4 feet in width. The dimensions of the house would be defined by the taq, that is, a house could be 5 to 13 taq (window bays) in width. The inner face of the structure is of sun dried bricks (kham seer). A series of twin deodar wood tie beams (daas) separates the high random rubble stone plinth (sometimes even the ground floor) from the burnt brick masonry.
Dhajji dewari is a timber frame into which one layer of masonry is tightly packed to form a wall, resulting in a continuous wall membrane of wood and masonry. The term is derived from a Persian word meaning ‘patchwork quilt wall’. The frame of each wall consists not only of vertical studs, but often also of cross-members that subdivide the masonry infill into smaller panels, impart strength and prevent the masonry from collapsing out of the frame. As in the taq system, the floors are supported on wooden joists (viram). Usually this system of construction was limited to upper floors or the attics (kani).The most important characteristic of this type of construction is the use of lean mud mortar.
Dhajji dewari construction continues to provide an efficient and economical use of material. It has also shown a marked resistance to earthquakes when compared to conventional fired masonry or adobe structures. Variations of the brick-nogged type were historically common in many areas not affected by earthquakes, such as medieval England and Europe, and it extended even into North America. However, it has proved especially suitable in seismically active regions such as Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and Kashmir.
In 2009, an American architect and building conservationist, Randolph Langenbanch, while researching about the 2005 earthquake in India and Pakistan, came to the conclusion that there is a dire need to preserve the vernacular architecture of Kashmir, not only for its traditional character but also for being earthquake-resistant.
The book documented an oft-ignored architectural heritage and construction tradition that has demonstrated a level of earthquake resistance which led experts to introduce these attributes into the Pakistani and Indian building codes in order to improve earthquake resistance in modern structures.
The construction practices used for these Kashmiri buildings, which stand in contrast to today’s codes and commonly accepted practices, include (1) use of mortar of negligible strength, (2) lack of any bonding between the infill walls and the piers, (3) weakness of the bond between the wythes of the masonry in the walls and (4) frequent (historical) use of heavy sod roofs.
In Kashmir, rigidity carries the potential for destruction. The more rigid a building is, the stronger it must be in order to avoid fracture. Because of the primitive material and means of construction in Kashmir, strength was not possible, so flexibility was necessary. Gosain and Arya, in ‘A Report of Anantnag Earthquake of February 20, 1967’, explain that during the 1967 Kashmir earthquake, buildings of three to five stories survived relatively undamaged. Their explanation for this is that “there are many more planes of cracking in the Dhajji-Dewari compared to the modern masonry.” It now forms the basis for the current Indian Standard Building code #4326 for earthquake resistant design and construction of buildings.
While natural calamities such as floods (exacerbated by extension of the city over wetlands), earthquakes, water logging due to heavy rainfall, snowstorms, and windstorms have accounted for obliterating the heritage of the valley, the maximum damage has been caused by modernization and technology. The transition from a mud and wood house to cement and brick has been at the expense of vernacular architecture, although these interventions were, seemingly, for structural stability. The traditional is now seen as obsolete and, perhaps, even a symbol of poverty. This view is also being enhanced by market pressures and globalisation.
Even insulation and comfort have been ignored. According to the study titled ‘Financial Evaluation of Different Space Heating Options Used in the Kashmir Valley’, published in the International Journal of Ambient Energy, modern houses in the valley had “poor insulation levels and loose-fitting doors and windows, thereby contributing to huge heat losses,” and which, in turn, leads to the long-term costs of heating during the harsh winters.
Traditional construction methods using timber-laced masonry have been described in various studies conducted after the earthquakes of 1967 and 2005 as having ductile behaviour as timbers “impart ductility” and augment “energy absorbing capacity” or “energy dissipation capacity,” all of these being essential to construction in a seismic zone.
Also the traditional construction typologies, as explained by Langenbach, work best only if “one understands and maintains the integrity of each element.” Mixing of modern technologies and materials with traditional construction methods can destroy the “positive attributes” of the older technology.
The modern constructions have also disturbed the urban scale and dwelling to street relationship that contributed to the city’s “magnificent natural and cultural landscape.” An effort to restore or retrofit these can contribute to a restoration of shared community values in the present day.
In the current scenario, traditional architecture requires a high level of ethical commitment to (and by) the local people, their locations, cultures, and traditions. Combined with the fact that people, over the years, have found various ways to deal with extreme weather conditions, albeit with substantial higher costs and energy demands, the added need to build a globally acceptable construction style has led to a reduction in traditional building solutions. Overlooking the architectural heritage and wisdom of the past translates to neglecting the unavoidable challenge for higher energy efficiency required in this generation.
It has now become imperative to reduce energy needs drastically and hence the carbon footprint, already a matter of grave concern in most cities of the mainland and beginning to make its mark in the Kashmir valley too.
The solution, perhaps, lies in the middle ground. With changing needs, the space requirements change too. However, an understanding of traditional building methods of Kashmir holds the key to bridging the gap for construction of new structures which not only help in continuity of the architectural heritage but are sustainable and most importantly built for the seismic zone.
Traditional buildings can form the basis of new designs or can be retrofitted. These can be designed and constructed using modern materials, innovative construction techniques, while keeping the structural integrity intact, and technology to increase the profitability and efficiency of traditional buildings. This is essential for maintaining the unique urban character seen along the Jhelum and inner precincts of Shehr-e-Khas, as is the norm to building the inner cities of Europe where even if a new building is constructed using modern materials, it has to follow stringent guidelines of the urban character of the street, or as in the UK, although the interior of the building can be entirely modified, the façade cannot be altered at all.
In most cases, the rush of urbanisation has produced some of the most dangerously built environments: multi-storey buildings, over-reliance on concrete and a loss of knowledge that protected previous generations. The pressure to meet the needs of growing populations, along with improperly implemented building regulations, can lead to lethal weakness. This was demonstrated in China in 2008 when the Sichuan earthquake destroyed over 7,000 recent but inadequately engineered schools, killing thousands of school children.
The Nepal earthquake of 2015 was a periodic event. The last one before that was in 1934. For years, the international community knew another big quake was due in Kathmandu. However, there was no preparation for a predictable event. In times of increased urban densification and rapidly expanding informal settlements, it is poorly designed and constructed buildings, not earthquakes, which are the real catastrophe.
Around three-quarters of all deaths in earthquakes are due to building collapse. Low-cost and informal buildings are most likely to fail. The technology and skills to practically eliminate this scale of fatality are available. Yet they are not reaching the people who need them the most. “Earthquakes are not just a ‘natural’ crisis: they reflect a poverty crisis,” wrote Robin Cross, managing director of Article 25, an architectural aid charity) for the Guardian.
This is a development problem produced by a failure to incorporate risk and resilience into long-term planning. Although building better and suitable for each zone should be the norm and not just a priority. Even after disasters the world over, which have been predictable, the building construction industry has failed the people.
Ways to rebuild safely and improve resilience are already known and have been demonstrated. In Concepcion, Chile, the 2010 earthquake was the sixth largest on record, but fatalities remained under 1,000, in large part due to effective implementation of building regulations.
Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to ‘float’ as the ground moves beneath them.
Jun Sato, a structural engineer and associate professor at the University of Tokyo, was quoted by BBC as saying: “All buildings – even if they are small or temporary structures – must be resilient to earthquakes in the country.”
Japan’s finesse at designing quake-proof buildings is born largely of necessity. The island nation sits on what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone where the Eurasian, Pacific and Philippine tectonic plates are forced beneath one another. This enormous pressure periodically results in a huge release of energy resulting in the archipelago’s earthquakes.
Japan has suffered earthquakes throughout its history, with one of the worst being the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The quake reached 7.9 on the Richter scale, devastated Tokyo and Yokohama and killed over 140,000 people.
There are two main levels of resilience that engineers work towards. The first is to withstand smaller earthquakes, the type that a building might see three or four times in its lifespan in Japan. For this magnitude, any damage that requires repair is not acceptable. The building should be so well designed that it can escape these earthquakes unscathed. The second level of resilience is withstanding extreme earthquakes, which are rarer. The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.
“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”
After WWII, the Japanese government introduced a series of increasingly strict measures to force builders to make quake-proof structures (this was especially important as buildings were growing taller). Japan’s earthquake proof building standards are as follows:
- Taishin: This is the minimum requirement for earthquake resistant buildings in Japan, and mandates that beams, pillars and walls be of a minimum thickness to cope with shaking.
- Seishin: The next level of earthquake-proof buildings in Japan, Seishin is recommended for high rise buildings. It uses dampers that absorb much the energy of an earthquake. Essentially, layers of thick rubber maps are placed on the ground below the foundations, thereby absorbing tremors.
- Menshin: This is the most advanced form of earthquake proof buildings in Japan, and also the most expensive. The building structure itself is isolated from the ground by layers of lead, steel and rubber which move independently with the earth below. This means the building itself moves very little – even during the most severe quakes.
Every natural disaster constantly provides new lessons on how to improve resilience, not just of the built environment but of social and community structures too.
Jaspreet Kaur is a Delhi-based architect, urban designer, Trustee Lymewoods & Span Foundation and Consulting Editor of Kashmir Newsline.