Concerns over megaquake in Oregon provoke debate over school building standards

According to advocates, communities should consider increased resiliency.

October 25, 2016 |

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The potential for a mega-earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone is high, according to scientists, and that has provoked debate over the seismic resilience of Oregon schools.

Parents have concerns about the safety of the buildings in a major earthquake, and advocates for more resilient buildings also point out that schools are well suited for the role of disaster shelters if they are strong enough to withstand temblors. Schools tend to be evenly distributed throughout neighborhoods, and they often have large, open spaces like cafeterias and gymnasiums that easily can be converted to sleeping areas.

The school district in Beaverton, Ore., is using a $680 million bond to design its new schools to double as emergency shelters and be functional shortly after an earthquake. Its new $98 million high school is designed with an emergency generator, and plumbing and electric wiring constructed with emergency services in mind. These features cost the district $900,000.

A structural engineer that wrote a paper on Beaverton’s resilient school designs says that communities should have conversations about school resilience before putting bond measures to vote.

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