I began the previous blog post with intentions of reviewing architectural traits that ensure the resilience of buildings in the case of natural occurrences such as earthquakes. Inevitably, the human aspect of the topic took precedence over technicalities.
Nevertheless, we wonder. How safe are we? Do we truly build with nature in mind or mostly functionality and beauty? Most importantly, how can individuals assess the structural integrity of their homes and commercial property and their ability to withstand natural forces?
The Utah State Historic Buildings Website has compiled very thorough information regarding seismic retrofit and earthquake engineering. An article titled, “Bracing for the Big One” explains how earthquakes affect buildings: “Horizontal forces on chimneys must be transferred to bracing and the roof structure; the forces on the roof must be transferred to the walls; the walls also receive the forces from ceilings and floors; forces in the walls must be transferred to the foundation and back to the ground. Similar force transfers must happen between almost every building part. If any part is weak or poorly connected it may fail and other members or connections must pick up the extra load. Earthquake forces exploit any weak or damaged link.”
We have all heard one of two recommendations for proper action during earthquakes: Stand in a doorway or take cover under a sturdy table. Clearly though, no single structure can ensure the safety of persons dwelling within, for every part depends on the strength of surrounding parts. Thus, a personal inspection checklist should focus attention to foundation, walls and columns, floors, ceilings and roofs, and last but not least, historic features and building history.
Natural catastrophes are not the only means by which buildings deteriorate. Every building we erect, in any climate, is in a battle of resistance from natural forces, but also from daily use. For instance, while renovations to individual rooms or structures may increase a home’s value and beauty, any modification, any new door or window we install and any new nail we hammer in has an impact on neighboring structures. Over time, every detail counts.
Today’s environmentally-friendly home is more than a harmonious blend of locally-acquired, sustainable materials and earth-friendly systems; its keystone is time-tested wisdom acquired from keen observation.
I invite you to visit the Utah State Historic Buildings Website for a very extensive inspection checklist. It also provides noteworthy evidence of the acute wisdom and knowledge required of today’s builders and engineers.
Also read: Of Life & Limb