Monday, June 16, 2008

Earthquake corruption in China

Now that things have settled a bit, people can look at this whole corruption thing. It's amazing that the Chinese have been so open about the earthquake, that they are having trouble nailing this one back down. At least they aren't being attacked for causing the earthquake in the first place! (Dam!) :) Or maybe it was the big Sumatra earthquake increasing the thrust load?

But to put these things into perspective, it's just as bad in the rest of the developing world. Everybody puts up a building that can hold a coat of shiny paint! The incentives are all in putting up the building cheaply, using coat-hanger steel, and cheesy concrete (like the French!). Very few countries have the civic infrastructure to combat this.

Here in Canada, as in northern Japan, we have snow loads to keep us honest. They rest of the world has only infrequent extreme loads. In the States, they just give up for tornadoes and hurricanes, their cheap houses can't stand up to anything! Wait until there is a New York earthquake, then you'll see some corruption!


Anonymous said...

How do snow loads keep us honest? Those are vertical loads not horizontal loads. Do you believe that 2 storey standard wood framed houses with brick veneer, (such as those in Ontario, GTA etc) would stand up to a major earthquake if one were to happen under our feet?

Harold Asmis said...

It all depends on roof weight. It is possible to design a building that is good with snow, but hopeless in an earthquake, if you use massive clay tiles, and giant chimneys. But for most houses, even the most corrupt builder and inspector don't want to face the building collapsing next season, before they can run.

A standard modern frame house, with a basement is the best! Of course to that, you add that really heavy stone veneer, a big fancy chimney, and a couple of water beds on the top, and what do you have?

Total corruption just works towards having a building that looks good. The #1 rule of politics is "It doesn't have to work, merely appear to be working!"

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. What if an earthquake were to happen in the winter with a 2 foot snow load on the roof. Are there any cases where this has happened and the snow had a negative impact on performance.

One other thing, since most foundations in Ontario are poured concrete but not reinforced, would they be damaged in a major quake?

Harold Asmis said...

I know they combine snow load and wind, which is almost equivalent to snow load and earthquake. Of course, you would then say "What about snow load, wind and earthquake?" But the amazing thing is that live loads don't combine, because they are all out of synch.

Anonymous said...


How about my unreinforced foundation question?

Harold Asmis said...

Did you ever notice those people who ask two questions to a speaker. If you're a speaker, you never remember the second question!

Foundations never experience any shear or tension in an earthquake. All buildings should be tied down with steel to the foundation. A foundation in settlement distress is a different story, since the earthquake can shift the soil beneath.

A foundation moves with the earth, and if the earth doesn't fail, neither do the poured or block walls. A basement probably cuts down the PGV at the top, by a factor of 2, and most 'warm' Americans never put in a basement.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the answer. It makes sense.