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Do earthquake standards need to save buildings?

The prevalence of earthquakes in much of California means that construction has to adhere to earthquake standards. These are designed to make buildings more resilient in the face of a quake than they would need to be elsewhere.

But is the goal to save the buildings themselves, allowing them to come through with minimal damage?

It is not, at least not right now. Even the modern building codes, designed in response to previous seismic activity, do not focus on the buildings. Instead, they focus on keeping people alive. The goal is for the damage to the building to take place in such a way that more people live through a catastrophic event.

After the earthquake, though, experts note that a lot of buildings will still be a total loss from having suffered such severe damage. They will be unusable and often impossible to repair. The only solution will be tearing them down and rebuilding.

Now, it is hard to fault lawmakers for focusing on saving lives over saving buildings, as they should. However, some have pointed out that such severe damage can have a lingering impact on society. People may not have homes, businesses or offices for weeks or months after an earthquake. It could last for years. The potential financial loss is incredible, and the displacement could put people in harm’s way. Many believe that the codes should be updated to help buildings get through intact.

It is very important to keep an eye on any potential changes. If lawmakers do decide to update the building codes, everyone involved must know exactly what legal alterations need to be made and how they impact current and future projects.