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Seismic Design in Guatemala

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I have been off of the list server for several months as I changed
employers.  It is good to be back.

I have a question of seismic design for those with experience designing
in Latin American.  I am working on the design of a one story residence
building for a children's orphanage.  It is located about 20 miles from
Guatemala City.  The NAVFAC publication classifies Guatemala as Zone 4
seismic activity.

My understanding is that typical construction in Guatemala is to use
concrete block made from volcanic ash.  The appearance of the block is
that it is not a structurally sound as concrete block made in the USA.  I
not sure of the proper way to says this without potential offending
someone, but from the perspective of a USA engineer who use used to sound
concrete block, this type of block is very poor.  Along with the concrete
block a type of cast-in-place concrete system is used.  The block wall is
constructed first, leaving vertical chases about 8 inches wide for a
concrete column to be poured later.  Then concrete beam is cast on top of
the wall to tie the columns together.  The roof framing will be designed
by a local supplier.  I am not sure if it will be wood trusses or light
gage metal.

My concern is with seismic design.  An 8 inch concrete column can't be
detailed for proper seismic reinforcing.  I have not talked to a
Guatemala engineer, but I get the impression that they do not consider
seismic forces in their design, but maybe I am wrong.  Since this
building will be used to house children I would like to include seismic
detailing in my design.  Does anybody have experience and can give me
insight into seismic design and detailing in Guatemala?  Can the volcanic
ash block be reinforced and grouted to provide a sound shear wall for
seismic design?  If so, do I need the additional cast-in-place concrete
system?  If there is another method of construction I should consider,
please let me know.

If someone can only answer in Spanish, please send me a private message
and I will get someone to translate it for me.

Thanks for your help.

Rich Lewis

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