Widespread damage from Nepal earthquake due to poor implementation of building code

Nepal’s code author says destruction was ‘inevitable.’

May 07, 2015 |
Widespread damage from Nepal earthquake due to poor implementation of building code

Much of the damage caused by the earthquake in Nepal was due to the poor implementation of building codes. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The author of Nepal’s building code says the earthquake that killed more than 4,300 people and caused at least $2 billion in economic losses could have been less destructive if the code had been properly implemented and enforced.

The tragedy was predictable given the conditions of the nation’s building stock. “It was inevitable, absolutely inevitable,” Richard Sharpe told Bloomberg Business. Sharpe is a New Zealand earthquake engineer who led a team that formulated Nepal’s only set of building standards 20 years ago.

The earthquake struck during a period following a decade-long Maoist guerrilla war that preceded years of political struggles following the removal of a 240-year-old monarchy in 2008. The unrest made code implementation and enforcement much more difficult.

What’s more, the capital of Kathmandu has expanded to an old lake bed south of the city— an area that is unstable and susceptible to liquefaction—in recent years. Buildings have not been designed to cope with those conditions.

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