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Re: "It's not in our culture"

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I would rather say that a building will behave as good as the design (e.g., load) assumptions were, and the design itself, and as construction was. 
We were so confident in ourselves after San Fernando and before Loma Prieta, and after that - before Northridge, and then - before Kobe.  IIRC, some Japanese engineers claimed after January of 1994 that no damage like that could have ever happened in their structurally-advanced culture.  Nature keeps giving us reality lessons, but they are usually forgotten in a couple of code cycles at the longest. 
I remember standing in owe inside the oldest covered theater (Palladio's Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza) that remains in service (and long-spanning, with heavy loads!) through all earthquakes, fires, winds, and wars since late 16th century.  I also remember looking at the drawings of a 1970s residential high-rise that - forget the ductile design concept - had so little reinforcement that it was scary, in the center of an earthquake-prone city.  The building is still standing occupied. 
It appears to me that whatever the venue, the problem has much more to do with politics than with structural engineering.  It is in our own backyard - not in Italy - where everybody knows about the dire situation with dams in the Sacramento area.  This is not some unknown future earthquake, this is for real and for sure.  Still, on the background of a financial crisis some politician/lobbyist puts this useless train on the ballot - and we gleefully vote it into a law!  We all know that we should not build on the fault lines - but keep permitting huge developments right there.  We all know about the situation with the older steel-framed buildings in LA and San Francisco - but the issue is under the rug for 15 years now. 
IMO, the only professional lesson for us from the L'Aquila earthquake should be the need to take a closer look at our own situation. 
V. Steve Gordin, SE
Irvine CA
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, April 09, 2009 08:44
Subject: Re: "It's not in our culture"

Because of Loma Prieta, Northridge and Kobe, our building code has grown in quantity and quality.  We are constantly learning from each event.  Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone in the AEC industry is quite on board with the movement.

It doesn't matter if a structure is designed to meet the minimum standards of a building code if poor workmanship or construction materials (i.e. owner's cash money) trumps the engineering design intent.  A building will behave as it's constructed, and not as it's designed...

On Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 8:26 AM, Scott, William N <William.N.Scott(--nospam--at)> wrote:
If I remember correctly, Northridge and Loma Pieta showed us that our codes and engineering are not perfect. These quakes were a short 15-sec.

Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2009 12:45 PM
To: Scott, William N; seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: "It's not in our culture"

Bill, I do realize that many Italian buildings are way old, and that many of them would be very expensive to retrofit.  That said, if your kids were in an obviously fragile old school building would you want your officials telling you that "fixing them, and thus saving your children's lives, is just not in our culture"?? 

About 5 years ago I went to an exhibit in San Francisco of some very flashy, high-tech analysis and retrofit designs for just such old stone structures, giving the impression that they were addressing this subject.  Now I find that "it isn't in our culture," which rather surprises me.

The problem with "knowing the risk and accepting it" is that the knowers and acceptors are seldom the ones who suffer the consequences.  Sort of like the Big Shot Financiers driving our economy to ruin and bailing out with multimillion-dollar bonuses. 

Bet none of the guys who made a killing (so to speak) on the improperly constructed newish school that collapsed had any of their own kids in it.  They never do. 

Lastly, I do recognize that the guy who made the comment -- Enzo Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (wow, they have their own institute?!) -- is only one person, and he is probably very sorry he opened his mouth, true though his statement may be.

Ralph Hueston Kratz, S.E.
Richmond CA USA

In a message dated 4/8/09 9:22:30 AM, William.N.Scott(--nospam--at) writes:
You need to realize that many buildings in these towns were 1000-years old or more. Renovations to these structures would damage the charm and would be expensive.
Italians know the seismic risk and can chose to accept them.

From: Rhkratzse(--nospam--at) [mailto:Rhkratzse(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2009 7:12 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: "It's not in our culture"

As reported by AP/ENR, an Italian government official stated that  "It's not in our culture to construct buildings the right way in a quake zone - that is, build buildings that can resist (quakes) and retrofit old ones. This has never been done."

They say you get a mule to do what you want by first getting its attention by hitting it on the head with a 2x4.  I would think that had already been done in Italy's case, by past devastating earthquakes, but I guess not.


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