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It is not possible to prevent disasters, but we can prevent or limit their impact by making buildings strong enough to resist their destructive forces. In the case of disasters like earthquake, hurricane, cyclone, flood etc., it is possible, to neutralize their harm by applying basic engineering and planning principles that are inexpensive and not beyond the skills of most building industries. The use of appropriate building technology may certainly help in reducing the adverse impact of disasters up to an extent.

Wide variety of construction types and building materials are used in urban and rural areas. These include local materials such as mud, straw and wood, semi-engineered materials such as burnt brick and stone masonry and engineered materials such as concrete and steel. The vulnerability of the different building types depends on the choice of building materials and building technology adopted.

The building vulnerability is generally highest with the use of local materials without engineering inputs and lowest with the use of engineered materials and skills. The basic vulnerability class of a building type is based on the average expected seismic performance for that building type. All buildings have been divided into type A to type F based on the European Macro seismic Scale (EMS-98) recommendations. The buildings in type A have the highest seismic vulnerability while the buildings in type F have the lowest seismic vulnerability.

A building of a given type, however, may have its vulnerability different from the basic class defined for that type depending on the condition of the building, presence of earthquake resistance features, architectural features, number of storey’s etc. It is therefore possible to have a damageability range for each building type considering the different factors affecting its likely performance. Some variations in building type are therefore defined as A, B, B+ etc.

These choices must take into account environmental, economic, social, institutional, and technical factors. The size and scale of the project as well as the geographic concentration of the area also play a significant role in the decision-making process.

Ignoring these factors or making the wrong decisions about them can significantly affect whether or not stakeholders are satisfied with the construction and whether or not the resulting housing solution is sustainable.

Source: Rapid Visual Screening of Masonry Building by Prof A S Arya (prepared under GOI-UNDP Programme)

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