Scientists in Thailand have issued warnings of that the acceleration of bridge expressway construction around the city is creating a greater chance of earthquake damage. They are also warning old building owners to strengthen their buildings’ against earthquakes.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand said that a 6.7 Richter scale earthquake that occurred on 24 March last year with its epicenter in the middle of Myanmar caused vibrations to reach the northern regions of Thailand as well as the buildings of Bangkok. And it is likely to happen again any time.
Even though Thailand has recent rules and regulations specifying load, resistance and durability of buildings as well as ground support to resist earthquake shocks, they do not apply to buildings constructed before 2007. Therefore, the owners of older buildings should focus on improving the building which will help reduce the severity of a disaster by investing just 3-5% of building construction cost to add steel casings at the base of support columns or covering the columns with carbon fiber sheet. One reason that the recent earthquake in Japan caused a small number of deaths is that buildings were designed to be able to move without collapsing.
The types of buildings at risk include a small commercial building which uses small columns but large beams, a large car park with divided parking levels without supporting beams, high rise buildings with open ground floors allowing the building to collapse easily and single houses and buildings that have pre-fabricated components which can’t guarantee that the seam of each piece fits precisely or strongly enough. It also includes high-rise buildings with unusual designs, creating a risk of structural collapse.
Regulation adjustments in four major areas would help mitigate risk and these include: 1) Constructing only one-two story buildings with a height of three meters or more in areas near earthquake faults in the northern and western regions. 2) Defining soft clay areas. Currently, only five provinces including Bangkok and its vicinity but should extended to cover 14 provinces especially provinces around Tha Chin and Chao Phraya River entrance. 3. Exerting more control over industrial buildings, especially chemical or flammable materials plants. 4. Expanding the scope of controlling risky building construction in the upper northeast of the country including Nong Khai, Udon Thani and Sakon Nakhon provinces which are near earthquake faults in Laos.
In the future specialized agencies should be set up to control and monitor new building’s stability to earthquake disasters in particular. The Building Control Division, Department of Civil Engineering in Bangkok has issued a statement saying that even though the state has issued concise ministerial acts, if they can’t be enforced, then they are useless.
The key issue is the professional ethics of engineers who designed the building. Today, the problem is that engineers apply for building permissions which differ from original construction plans by submitting different building plans and the forged signatures of other engineers to get the plans certified. There is also a problem with the verification process because of the lack of officers.
The Department of Public Works is studying ways to both enforce the laws more effectively and to encourage the owners of old buildings to apply for building inspections, since there are tax breaks available for those who invest in building structure enhancement.
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