Publicador de contenidos

Back to 2017_09_11_ARQ_opinion_lecciones_mexico_desastre_1985

Domingo Pellicer Daviña, Architect and Full Professor of Construction at the School of Architecture of the University of Navarra.

Lessons learned in Mexico since the 1985 disaster

Sat, 09 Sep 2017 12:30:00 +0000 Published in

It is worth noting two singular notes from the information obtained so far on the earthquake that devastated the Mexican and Guatemalan Pacific coast yesterday: the first is that the intensity of the earthquake was 8.2 and the death toll so far stands at 35 at issue ; the second is that in 1985 there was another earthquake of 8.1 intensity in the same area that left a death toll of 10,000 people.

Naturally it is too early to draw conclusions from the comparison; but even assuming that - as is often the case in such cases - the issue of victims increases as information is gathered, it is clear that a substantial improvement in people's safety has been achieved.

The explanation can only lie in the modification of the regulatory principles that took place between the two episodes, which in turn must have led to a qualitative improvement in the stability of the buildings and consequently in the safety of their occupants, with such a sure foundation as having been based on the experience acquired after the previous earthquake. This allows them to ensure that any approach to compliance, however nuanced it may be, will result in avoiding loss of life.

The secondary objective of goal is to reduce the economic cost of an earthquake. Its evaluation is complex, in view of the large number of random variables that can occur. However, the mere fact of dimensioning buildings with seismic criteria leads to a greater safeguarding of lives and a reduction of damages.

But it also deserves special attention that the updated rules and regulations would only have applied to buildings in the affected area constructed after the 1985 earthquake. We still know nothing about the behavior of the buildings that survived yesterday, but surely many of them would have been humble factory buildings whose construction would be prohibited today.

This is a matter of utmost importance when weighing the foundations of the rules and regulations of Building, which in this case has shown a notorious example in the Chiapas earthquake -territory in front of which the epicenter occurred, in the ocean- but which can be extended to the whole normative field. Experience internship over theoretical lucubrations, especially when these are based on probabilities of this or that happening; and accommodation to the possible, because sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

"They bark, my lord, therefore we ride". Within the objective misfortune of an earthquake, the drastic reduction of issue of victims induces to congratulate the Mexican technicians responsible for their anti-seismic rules and regulations , because they have achieved the first goal of any legal disposition in the field of Architecture, to ensure that the Vitrubian principle is complied with: firmitas. The recipients of Architecture are people; and life is the most precious asset of any of them.