Essay: Building to help withstand natural disasters

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  • Subject area(s): Architecture essays
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  • Published on: January 21, 2019
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Natural disasters have always been an issue with how people build their homes and building. As buildings styles have evolved so have the designs to withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, so the problem that has faced architects and engineers are how they can design systems that will protect the buildings while keeping the cost of production down. The second challenge in amplified in less developed countries. One question that comes to mind is how the money that is donated is being used, since there’s a history of relief money being used irresponsibly by the government of the affected countries. One ways that groups work against that possibility is by doing work themselves and taking technologies from developed countries that face the same problems that are created by their natural disasters.
This problem became a prominent issue on January 12, 2010, when a magnitude 7 earthquake struck in Léogâne, a town 25 km from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. Haiti, doesn’t have building codes, which is why the buildings collapsed, trapping or killing their occupant. The country was still recovering from two tropical storms and one hurricane. Following the earthquake, international aid groups and citizens that weren’t hurt worked to provide medical assistance, food and water to the victims. These efforts were hindered by the damaged electricity system, which was unreliable before the earthquake, no communication lines and damaged roads, which limited what supplies could make it into the areas that needed the most aid.

After the Haitian earthquake there was a much stronger earthquake in Chile, but was much less devastating, because of the difference of Chile having a building codes and Haiti having no building codes. This should be something that is regulated by the government, but most engineers and architects don’t turn in plans for approval because of the understaffed and unequipped department, so most buildings are built with substandard materials and not designed to withstand earthquakes, unlike in Chile where each proposed building and site goes through extensive testing, and licenses engineers, architects and engineers. Because buildings weren’t reviewed many buildings that have supports don’t work to support the building with strong horizontal external forces. The majority of the Haitian population live in Port-au-Prince and over half of the population lives in poverty, so there’s a high demand for cheap housing, this high demand results in “rapid construction with little engineering input”. The reason that this is possible is because of the total absence of the state in Haiti”(Oliver-Smith) Haiti’s government doesn’t have the best reputation when it come to helping the people that elect them(I need to find a source to support my further claims).

The reason that Chile is compared to Haiti is that both of these countries had earthquakes early in 2010. While Chile had an 8.8 magnitude on the Richter magnitude scale and the death toll was approximately five hundred and fifty. As previously stated the earthquake in Haiti was a 7.0 and the estimated death toll is one hundred sixty thousand. Chile has a history of earthquakes, being in the Ring of Fire creates significant earthquakes, such as the 1960 9.5 earthquake and 1985 7.8 earthquake. Following the 1985 earthquake the Chilean government implemented a strict building code. (chilean building codes). Rates their soils into 4 types. One of the reasons that Haiti was so drastic is that the ground soil had few plants and had a high water saturation rate, which is why the ground turned to liquid upon the shaking of the earth.

Ring beams was the most significant change done in Sustainable Housing Reconstruction. The group did more work around the community such as infrastructure such as walkways, underground drainage, lights and sanitation(Charlesworth). Some houses that were damaged but not destroyed were refitted with the necessary modification of the ring beam, which was described more in Li You and Wen Liu’s paper with studied the effects of coal mining on the ground and how people continued to build on the ground that would shift randomly. The effects of coal mining to the quality of the ground is very similar to the ground in Port-Au-Prince which is To continue using building on sites that were being mined, the building needed to use ring beams to resist the potential movement of the ground caused by the effects of mining. They must almost be used in developing buildings since its unsure of when the effects of the mining become minute or the ground becomes stable again. The required ring beams strengthens the stiffness and integrity of the building and improves the building’s ability to resist ground deformation.

An example I found that can be related to type of ground that is in Port-au-Prince and the ground found in China The reason that ring beams in buildings in coal mining areas is so relevant to Haiti is how the coal being extracted from the ground affects how the ground moves. Some measures to continue building’s ability to continue safely housing people with ring beams. (Chinese mining)

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