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  Architecture in Chile stands test of earthquakes

Architecture in Chile stands test of earthquakes

Published : Jan 6, 2016, 2:52 am IST
Updated : Jan 6, 2016, 2:52 am IST

Some people run into the street during an earthquake, but Rene Lagos would rather be indoors — preferably on the top floor of a skyscraper.

An anti-seismic building in Santiago. (Photo: AFP)
 An anti-seismic building in Santiago. (Photo: AFP)

Some people run into the street during an earthquake, but Rene Lagos would rather be indoors — preferably on the top floor of a skyscraper.

The Chilean engineer crunched the numbers for some of the tallest buildings in Santiago, and he loves to feel them move when earthquakes strike — as they do regularly in Chile, one of the world’s most seismically active countries.

 

“Everything that’s going to fall has already fallen,” says Lagos from the 24th floor of a high-rise in the Chilean capital.

“When a strong earthquake comes along, I just try to enjoy it.... I spend my life designing buildings for this occasion, so I can’t let myself get so nervous I don’t experience it.” Chile is located on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” a seismically turbulent region where many of Earth’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

In the past five years, the South American country has had three huge earthquakes with a magnitude greater than eight.

But it is also resilient, thanks largely to its demanding building code. The standard is that buildings must save lives during an earthquake by remaining standing.

 

Chilean law also holds builders liable for construction deficiencies, giving them ample incentive to make sure their structures are quake-resistant.

That means investing in enough steel, concrete and anti-quake technology to last a building’s lifetime.

“The engineering design (of a building) is fully integrated into the architectural design,” said Fernando Guarello, a former director of the national architects’ association. Keeping buildings upright through years of quakes large and small is no small feat, he added.

“There will always be damages. They may not be very visible. But the materials will always suffer when they’re squeezed and stretched,” he said.

 

The country learned some key lessons from an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck on February 27, 2010. The quake and subsequent tsunami killed more than 500 people.

Location: Chile, Santiago