This report is the outcome of a rapid desk study to identify and collate
the current state of evidence (in Nepal and other Low-Income Countries)
to assess three issues:
(a) The regulation and effectiveness of seismic building codes in
achieving the construction of safer and more liveable buildings, and in
creating resilience against disasters.
Building codes are designed to create quality assurance and durability,
with the objective to minimise economic loss due to material and
structural deterioration, and to provide basic comfort and safety
conditions. In earthquake-prone areas, building codes are complemented
by seismic codes, specifying the calculation methods and strength values
of key structural elements to avoid building collapse during an
earthquake. In countries where building and seismic codes have not been
implemented (Haiti, Pakistan, China, Nepal), large loss of life and
economic set-back has occurred, compared to countries where seismic
codes are strictly enforced (Peru, Chile, New Zealand and Japan) and the
loss of life has been minimal. Furthermore, the extent of compliance or
non-compliance of the seismic codes only becomes evident after a major
(b) The types of seismic building code systems used in different
countries (ie. the strength requirements for private housing versus
public buildings, such as schools, health facilities or industrial
buildings), particularly in countries in the Himalayan region that are
similar to Nepal with respect to risk and level of income.
Most seismic codes follow the American Concrete Institute (ACI)
calculation methods (Nepal follows the Indian codes, which are similar
to the ACI method). Earthquake zoning depends on the geographical
conditions in the country. Not all low-income countries (LICs) are able
to refine these data, thus requiring large safety margins. While there
are no differences in building types, there are differences in the
interpretation of the importance of building types (the i factor).
(c) What systems and mechanisms are used to ensure compliance in areas
where seismic building codes are in place, and what examples are there
of new technologies or innovative approaches to encourage compliance?
While seismic codes are often updated directly after the occurrence of a
major earthquake with many casualties, new codes have little or no
effect without an outreach or education system designed to create
awareness about their content or when there is no enforcement system to
strictly monitor their implementation.
In LICs, there is a large economic effort to upgrade the existing
building stock in urban and rural areas, thus requiring tailored
financing systems. The public administration is easily tempted to
approve permits without any on-site building inspection, thus requiring
enforcement of on-site building control to avoid corruption. In rural
areas, most buildings are constructed without plans or calculations and
realised progressively by village craftsmen and self-help methods, thus
requiring code versions which are understandable by local craftsmen. Old
code versions are as good as new versions for low-rise housing. When
building inspectors are unavailable, community inspection methods have
to be developed.
This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand with the assistance
of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted
through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods
Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS)
programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and
IMC Worldwide Limited.
Nienhuys, S. Seismic building codes: global and regional overview. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) iv + 37 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_hd.november2015.nienhuyss]