Friday, 25 May 2012

BUILDING DESIGN: SAFETY STARTS AT THE LEVEL OF URBAN PLANNING

MÁRIO LOPES

The design of a building is a complex process that may involve the participation of professionals of different areas, such as architects, urban planners, structural engineers, and engineers of several other specialties (water and sewage, mechanical, electrical, etc.). It is usually considered that the seismic resistance is a responsibility of the structural engineer, and this view is consecrated in the legal framework of many countries. However, this view does not correspond to reality. 

Even though the structural design is the most important part of the project to ensure an adequate seismic performance, it can be shown that projects of other specialties, with particular emphasis to the architectural design, may also have a strong influence on the final result in what concerns seismic resistance. It is therefore important that engineers, architects and project coordinators have the assertiveness to establish the correct priorities when decisions need to be made to compatible different architectural and structural requirements. The attitude of just trying to force the criteria that suits better the interest of his/her specialty (unfortunately common) usually results of the inability to evaluate and judge the relative importance of the factors that should be considered in the best interests of the promoter and the public, this is, it results of selfishness and incompetence. 

In building design, seismic safety starts at the level of urban planning. Issues such as mapping areas of potential landslides or liquefaction, with restriction or stronger requirements for construction should be considered at urban plans. Problems of pounding between buildings due to slabs at different levels should, common in inclined streets, should also be addressed at this level. Since urban planning may also involve also contributions of engineers and architects, this is another field where assertiveness and cooperation between architects and engineers is necessary.

LORCA, LA VIÑA AREA,  BEFORE AND AFTER THE EARTHQUAKES, MAY 11 2011



Mário Manuel Paisana dos Santos Lopes, graduated in Civil Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Lisbon, in 1982. He was awarded the Edgar Cardoso prize of that year, for the best student in the área of Bridges and Special Structures. In 1987 he got his MsC degree in Structural Engineering from IST and in 1991 he got his PhD in Earthquake Engineering from Imperial College of Science and Technology, London. Since 1991 he is assistant professor at the Civil Engineering Department of IST, having participated in numerous research projects and thought several subjects of structural engineering. He is author of several papers published in international journals and conferences. He has also participated in several projects of reinforced concrete buildings and bridges, as well as of other structures. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Portuguese Society of Earthquake Engineering (SPES) since 1996, and in the framework of the respective activities, has organized several events to raise awareness to the seismic problem and wrote several documents on earthquake risk mitigation policies.

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