The calamitous fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has drawn worldwide attention to safeguarding heritage sites and improving building resilience. In the wake of this tragedy, people have donated more than 850 million euros (US$955.9 million) to conserve and rebuild the 850-year-old cathedral. French President Emmanuel Macron called the icon’s restoration the public’s resilience.
Taiwan had, as of the end of last year, 935 monuments and 1,450 listed buildings. They are protected under the Cultural Heritage Protection Act (文化資產保存法) in case of a disaster, such as a fire or earthquake. The safety of the structures are assessed, and they are reinforced and retrofitted to restore valuable historical buildings, preserve cultural heritage and ensure the public’s safety and well-being.
In late February last year, Deputy Minister of the Interior Hua Ching-chun (花敬群) budgeted NT$6.07 billion (US$196.7 million) for a four-year project to subsidize the examination and reinforcement of historical buildings’ earthquake resistance, and offer tax benefits and floor area concessions to spur building renovation.
The Cabinet has recognized the urgency of amending the Building Act (建築法) to regulate dangerous buildings.
Older buildings are not only damaged by external factors, such as natural disasters, but also by intrinsic failures. For example, an investigation into a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit southern Taiwan in 2016 — killing 117 people — determined that buildings collapsed partially due to building design and construction failures, as well as poor construction management.
The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s definition of building codes says that they should regulate the design, construction and materials of buildings — both technically and functionally — to ensure that structures can withstand damage without collapsing to maintain public safety and well-being.
The construction industry is pushing for a new approach called “systemic project management” to enhance building quality and improve the resistance of design and construction to disasters. This includes incorporating intense periods of design and life-cycle planning to ensure quality assurance from the design phase to post-occupancy.
International organizations that promote sustainable built environments, such as the Building Research Establishment and the US Green Building Council, recommend incorporating intense periods of design with the project design and delivery consultation right from the concept stage of construction projects.
These advocates suggest early design and construction risk assessments, early consideration of procurement and supply chains, and early stakeholder consultations to ensure smooth and successful delivery of project requirements and construction quality assurance.
Life-cycle planning integrates whole life value with the design and specifications of the early design phase, providing the design team with a better understanding of possible construction and servicing strategies, as well as the requirements to avoid potential risks.
Analytical tools such as real options help investors determine investment strategies during construction that could accommodate risk prevention and post-disaster restoration.
Transparent procurement and supply-chain management ensures step-by-step quality assurance. For example, the sources of the materials being specified for construction should be disclosed and certified.
Aftercare support in the post-construction phase assists asset managers in evaluating the root causes of damage so that designs can be optimized for refurbishments or similar construction projects.
A thorough examination and reconstruction program is necessary to improve building safety, but authorities must also adopt more in-depth systemic design and construction management from the earliest stages of a project to enhance building resilience.
This management strategy should not be limited to refurbishing older buildings, but should also include new construction projects — such as ongoing construction on the controversial build-operate-transfer project: the Taipei Dome — to ensure people’s safety and well-being in the built environment.
Ng Ming Shan is a LEED AP and registered architect in the UK and Switzerland, and a doctoral candidate in civil engineering at ETH Zurich.
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