People living in “street houses” under five stories can now make a simple evaluation of the ability of their houses to withstand earthquakes through a Web site developed by the National Applied Research Laboratories’ (NARL) National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE).
The center yesterday launched its Web site (streethouse.ncree.narl.org.tw) that provides earthquake prevention information and a seismic evaluation service to the public for free.
People living in street houses need only input basic information about their residence, such as its location, number of stories, pillars, walls, length and width to learn how safe their house is, and whether the building needs to be strengthened.
The center said that street houses are a common type of residential building usually built along major streets, under five stories tall, with a pedestrian corridor, and accounted for about 70 percent of Taiwan’s residential buildings.
Taiwan is located in the Pacific Rim seismic zone, with 33 active faults. Seismic history shows that major earthquakes above magnitude 7 occur on the island at least once every 10 to 30 years, the center said.
Since the devastating 921 Earthquake in 1999, which seriously damaged tens of thousands of buildings, the center has worked with the Ministry of Education to make seismic evaluations on 6,313 campus buildings, enhancing the strength of 2,845 buildings.
NCREE Building Engineering Division assistant researcher Chiou Tsung-chih (邱聰智) said that the earthquake evaluation system was established using the large amount of seismic and engineering data information that was gathered from the campus project over the past decade. The system was launched after three years of designing and testing.
Chiou said that using information collected after major earthquakes, it was found that a building’s first story is the most easily damaged, due to it having fewer pillars and walls.
However, improvements such as thicker pillars or more walls can greatly enhance the building’s ability to withstand earthquakes.
NCREE director Chang Kuo-chun (張國鎮) said that the next phase of the project would expand to the evaluation of taller buildings, and his teams are in the process of gathering the information required.