Earthquake fears lead to new codes for construction

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Earthquake fears lead to new codes for construction

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said on Tuesday that it will tighten standards on structural regulations for buildings amid growing concerns about earthquakes.

The changes will be the first since September 2009.

“There have been growing concerns that Korea, too, is not in the safe zones regarding the recent earthquakes happening along the Trans-Pacific regions, including Japan in April and Ecuador,” a ministry official said.

“Past regulation standards for earthquake-resistant buildings were based on foreign studies, but the new standard is based on research done on Korean ground.”

The ministry said it has included design standards for nonstructural elements such as elevators, escalators, lighting, bearing walls and windows, which were not included in the earlier regulations.

These nonstructural elements do not contribute to upholding the overall weight of a building, but the ministry said they were included because of the secondary damage they could cause in the event of an earthquake, such as fires or gas leaks.

The new standards also include more precise standards for measuring wind velocity in different parts of the country, allowing designers to make their buildings more suited to withstand the conditions of each region.

The new standards improve the soundness of public buildings like hospitals, schools and libraries, all places where people typically gather in the hallways during times of emergency.

These buildings will now be required to hold up to 400 kilograms per square meter (80 pounds per square foot), up from the earlier 300 kilograms.

Unlike Japan, where 82 percent of non-public buildings are designed to be earthquake-resistant, in Korea, only 30.3 percent are designed with earthquakes in mind, leading to potentially widespread devastation in the event of a natural disaster.

Among government buildings, only 40.9 percent have earthquake-resistant designs here in Korea, compared to Japan’s 88.3 percent.

Only 20.7 percent of public buildings like schools and hospitals in Korea are designed to withstand earthquakes, compared to 82.2 percent of hospitals and 22.6 percent of schools in Japan.

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