The construction of buildings could be more earthquake resistant with cost effective simple reinforcement of the ground floor columns, experts said at a roundtable discussion in the capital yesterday.
The ground floors having columns (without brick walls for car parking), susceptible to enormous active loads of an earthquake effect, can still survive with a simple jacketing of steel plates, said Prof Iftekhar Anam of University of Asia Pacific (UAP), while presenting a research findings.
The ground floors of buildings with mere columns (without brick works) remain particularly vulnerable, he said.
The UAP and The Daily Star jointly organised the discussion on the “Research Findings on Strengthening Structural Members beyond Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) for Protection against Earthquakes” sponsored by a real estate builder Building Technology and Ideas (BTI) at The Daily Star Centre.
Noted civil engineer and earthquake expert Prof Mehedi Amhed Ansary said one lakh out of four-lakh housing units and a thousand of 3,500 factory buildings in the capital are vulnerable as per preliminary assessment.
The ground floors with bare columns, known as “soft story”, would probably be the foremost reason for building collapse, said Dr Ali Akbar Mollick, a freelance consultant.
Alongside in-built steel jacketing of columns, wing-walls on the both sides of columns would be the most effective measure to prevent the ground floor collapse, he said.
Prof Md Nazmul Islam of North South University said that architectural and structural features of a building should be carefully chosen to reduce the avoidable casualties.
Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, president of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh, said there is a severe dearth of practicing structural and foundation engineers, leaving 95 percent of the buildings constructed without involvement of professionals and they remain most vulnerable.
Of the 4,500 building plans that Rajuk approve every year in the capital, only 1,000 are designed by recognised architects, he said, adding that there was no mechanism to ensure the quality of materials and compliance with the approved design during construction.
Enforcement of building laws and BNBC is also a must to ensure buildings' safety, he said.
Loopholes in the building approval process are an immense threat, he said adding that despite a High Court order several years back, the government has not yet instituted the building authority without which enforcement of the existing building code is impossible.
Eminent civil engineer Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, currently vice-chancellor of Asia Pacific University, conducted the discussion.
Prof Sekender Ali of Buet's civil engineering department, Md Kabir Ahmed Bhuiyan, president of The Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh, Prof Saiful Amin of Buet, Md Murtuza Alam, managing director of Engineering and Research Associates Limited, Rudba Choudhury, architect of BTI, Md Sohel Rahman, executive engineer of Public Works Department, Abdul Quayum, an associate editor of Prothom Alo and Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, also spoke.