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Reinforced Concrete Construction

Exposed by Earthquakes
Examples of design mistakes
in reinforced concrete constructions

Report by:

Sjoerd Nienhuys
Architect, Engineer

Report date:

May 2010

Examples in this report from: Ecuador, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


1. INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................................ 1

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES ..................................................................................................... 2

2. ECUADOR, ESMERALDAS.......................................................................................................... 3
3. MANAGUA, NICARAGUA ......................................................................................................... 11
4. ACEH, INDONESIA ...................................................................................................................... 12
5. BALAKOT, PAKISTAN ................................................................................................................ 15
5.1. RECONSTRUCTION...................................................................................................................... 17

After earthquakes it becomes very visible what types of building construction have withstood the
forces of the earthquake and which did not perform adequately. Analysing the nearly collapsed and
broken structures gives a good insight in the possible architectural and engineering design mistakes,
faults in the detailing and the mismanagement of the construction by the building contractors. For
reinforced concrete construction, mainly inadequate column designs and over-weight structures are
the cause of fatal building failure and related human victims. Heavy and stiff floor constructions are
disadvantageous for the overall strength and ductility of the reinforced concrete buildings.
The paper gives 35 picture examples are given from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Key words: earthquake, building design, failure, columns, reinforced concrete, stirrups, pancake.

All pictures by the author:

Sjoerd Nienhuys,
Architect, engineer
More information on earthquake engineering on www.nienhuys.info

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Only after the occurrence of an earthquake it can be seen if the buildings have performed adequately
according to their planned design. The design criteria, however, may be different for each type of
building, especially when no binding national Code exits that defines the minimum strength.
The American Concrete Institute ACI-318 earthquake resistant building code is widely copied and
adapted into national standards of South American countries. Currently the ACI-318 has a new
updated version (2008) improving again on the version of 1999, but many countries in the worlds
major earthquake zones have older versions of this code, and local adaptations. Yet, when the
buildings are designed and constructed according to these codes, they will most likely not fatally
collapse with an earthquake of a magnitude 7 on the Richter scale.
The recent earthquake on 12 January in Haiti (Logne near Port-au-Prince) had a magnitude of 7
Richter in the epicentre. With an estimated depth of 13 km under the city of 2 million inhabitants it
resulted in massive damage and somewhere between 50,000 to 230,000 causalities. The number has
been very uncertain because of a failing government infrastructure. The latest large earthquake
occurred on 27 February 2010 in Chile (Maule region, Caete) had a magnitude of 8.8 Richter in the
epicentre being 115 km from the city of Concepcin, with a depth of 35 km, being one of the largest
earthquakes ever registered worldwide. The death toll in Chile however, was approximately 300,
being more than doubled by the following tsunami to over 708, and counting.
The differences in death tolls are significant and caused by the following characteristics:


Haiti, 12 January 2010

Force earthquake 7 Richter
Depth 13 km (shallow)
Right under the village Logne (10,000),
and only 25 km from capital Port-auPrince with over 2 million inhabitants.
54 aftershocks 4 Richter and greater with
two of magnitude 5.9 Richter.
Over 1.2 million people homeless
Poor quality houses, not build according
to earthquake code.
Many single storey adobe houses in town,
having a loose structure and large mass.
No exist government control on building
practices and substantial corruption.
No history of large earthquakes and no
information available on better design.
Large amount of informal building without
involvement of architects and engineers.

Chile, 27 February 2010

Force earthquake 8.8 Richter = 500 x stronger
Depth 35 km
Concepcin at distance of 115 km. More than
50% of causalities caused by tsunami crushing
into small coastal villages. 109 km from Talca.
Maximum aftershock 6.2 Richter
Over 2.1 million people homeless
Better quality houses, many build according to
earthquake codes.
House destruction along the coast also by tsunami
Government control on designs and reasonable
government control with little corruption.
History of very large earthquakes in same region
and available documentation with pictures.
Training of architects and engineers include the
application of the earthquake design code.

Although the earthquake in Chile was 500 times stronger, the larger depth and the lesser population
nearby are part of the lesser number of causalities. However, the largest difference is the better
building construction practised in Chile. This is a result of one of the largest recorded earthquakes
ever recorded in the same region in 1960 and a functioning government structure as opposed to Haiti
which is a failed state for the last half century. The failed state situation causes lack of training of
engineers and architects and a total lack of control on what was/is being build.
This paper reviews 35 pictures taken by the author from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010



Any learning process has different components through which learning takes place. School learning
may be based on book knowledge, theoretical explanations and study, but most people learn more
from real examples and learning by doing. Seeing is also much more educative than just reading,
reason for which the illustration of a topic is of great importance to the learning process.
Analysing post earthquake pictures does vividly teach about what designs were faulty and
why. Unfortunately, that cannot be said from the structures that were not damaged because from the
outside little can be seen. Only the study of the drawings and calculations can determine why a certain
structure did not fail, and while neighbouring structure were damaged or totally collapsed. In
particular those constructions that are at the point of total failure are interesting because they present
themselves as a freeze frame during the process of collapsing.
In the following paragraphs some picture material is shown of earthquake damage and
commented upon. Also some information is provided about constructions that have either good or
bad designs. The information is not at all exhaustive or complete in all details, but it provides some
very common examples that can be found in many cities in earthquake zones.
Buildings are primarily designed to
carry their own weight and the live load
caused by occupants. The own building
weight is often the most determining
factor in the design. That weight is
vertical. Small tremors that have
predominantly a vertical vibration P
or the vertical component of the
withstood by most of the buildings.
Buildings however, that are located
sideways away from the epicentre will
receive a lateral rocking type force S
from the quake, moving the building
forward and backward which is often
the cause of major damage.
Buildings are subject to a combination of the waves indicated in the picture, but the effect will depend
on the soil structure and distance from the epicentre and hypocentre. The wave length (horizontal
component of the Rayleigh type wave) and the time between forward and backward movements will
increase with the distance from the Epicentre. With increasing distance from the epicentre the wave
amplitudes will diminish.
The earthquake resistant building codes take into consideration the balance between the risk
of a heavy earthquake 7 to 8 Richter occurring in a given location, and the very high economic cost of
building everything extremely earthquake resistant. The code recommends minimum construction
standards to avoid total collapse but allows people to evacuate, even if the building is a total loss.
Building with brick and concrete to withstand a Richter 8 earthquake without damage is economically
very costly; the alternative is a very lightweight and ductile structures.

The force of an earthquake on a building is directly related to its mass.

Sjoerd Nienhuys
Architect, engineer

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Reinforced concrete is a so called modern building material in the eyes of many people, especially
rural people and those living in villages, because they see large town buildings going up in reinforced
concrete. However, reinforced concrete is very heavy and therefore not a suitable material for
building lightweight. Secondly, the quality of the reinforced concrete depends on the design and the
location of the reinforcement as well on the cement and water quantities, aggregates, casting method
and the curing. With a good design and poor quality work implementation, the concrete does not have
the required strength and the planned interaction between the reinforcement steel (stress resistance)
and the concrete (press resistance) will be disturbed, resulting in a low structural strength.
People like to build in reinforced concrete because the material has the image of durability due to its
use in expensive buildings in large towns.
Many different aspects can lead to low quality and failure of reinforced concrete buildings.
1. The designs are architecturally not always appropriate for high risk earthquake areas. In some
countries the architects do not have adequate design training and rely on the engineers to fix
their designs according to the strength requirements.
2. The engineers have not always indicated the correct reinforcements at the correct positions.
3. In Latin America and other countries there is too often no coordination between the architects
and engineers, but the engineer is made responsible for the correct design strength.
4. The drawings of columns and other reinforcements are not always individually detailed.
5. For building components the architects and draughtsmen do not detail the reinforcement or
make on each drawing detailed charts for the steel cutting and bending.
6. The small contractors and work supervisors do not always understand the drawings provided.
7. Corrupt contractors may change the steel quality, dimensions or leave out reinforcement.
8. Poor contractors may use inadequate quality of aggregates such as sand (dirty), stones (weak),
and water (salty) and cause improper mixing (by hand) or add too much water (W/C factor).
9. Poor quality formwork and insufficient cleaning of the formwork may cause dirt and binding
wire to remain, spacers improperly placed, and eventually rust forming on the long term.
10. Poor quality or sloppy contractors may use faulty casting techniques that cause leakage from
the formwork and honeycomb concrete with aggregate pockets.
11. Poor quality of casting work will minimise vibration, leaving air inside the concrete.
12. Poor quality or corrupt contractors as well as unaware private builders may inadequately cure
the fresh concrete by keeping it insufficiently wet and for insufficient time. This is very often
the case in warm, hot and sunny climates.
13. Municipal control is often lacking on the design drawings whereas in many countries the
design drawings are unverified and rubber stamped by corrupt government employees.
14. Municipal or government inspection personnel does not always adequately supervise the work
of the contractors on the job, or just before the casting of concrete takes place.
15. No test cubes are made from the actual concrete that is used in the work, or the test cubes
made are properly cured, whereas the concrete cast is not adequately cured.
The above list of 15 points is the sad result of lack of standards, lack of education and a failing
supervision system, several or all of which can be regularly found when inspecting post earthquake
damage. It was one of the results of the authors investigation of the Esmeraldas earthquake in 1976,
and is most likely the case related to many damages in the Haiti earthquake.
The above list of 15 points also shows the possible dangers in the use of reinforced concrete, and it
illustrates that in the construction process, control is required for every step. A particular problem of
reinforced concrete is that once it is cast, it is difficult to assess for a citizen the quality if the concrete
and even more difficult to assess the quality of the reinforcement inside. Seeing concrete columns and
beams on the outside does not guarantee a good quality construction, unfortunately some reinforced
concrete buildings are a simple death trap during an earthquake.
Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

The earthquake of 9 April 1976 in Esmeraldas, Ecuador had an estimated force of VI on the modified
Mercalli scale or approximately 5.5 to 6 on the Richter scale. Some damages depicted here are from
reinforced concrete buildings that were in their construction phase. Because of the available
reproduction possibilities in 1976 the most significant pictures were drawn in pencil.
Picture 10. Esmeraldas.
This was an line of shop buildings,
being fully pancaked due to failure
of the supporting column structure.
The building was realised without
the consideration of any existing
earthquake construction code and
had insufficient shear walls inside
to support lateral forces.
Picture 11. Esmeraldas.
The same building close up from
the side showing the thickness of
the solid reinforced concrete floors.

The thickness of the 20 cm solid concrete floor was increased by

<<<<< an 8 cm thick layer of cement topping, causing the floor
and roof to weigh more than 670 kg/m2.
With a size of 9 x 30 m or 180 ton per floor, this is causing a massive horizontal load during an
earthquake. Only very well designed shear walls can resist such a force.
Picture 12. Esmeraldas.
A line of new apartment buildings
totally flattened or pancaked as a
result of the failure of the columns.
The block was in its construction
phase and the contractor had not
realized the infill walls on the
ground floor, while the first floor
was already loaded with masonry
for facades and separation walls. In
this case the planning or the
construction phases in the building
process had not considered that the
area is a notorious earthquake zone.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Picture 13. Esmeraldas.

The same building complex, dropped
down one storey. The upper storey
did not totally collapse because
several cement block masoned infill
shear walls have been put in place.
Avoiding this kind of damage
requires the realization of shear walls
in two directions before the next
floor is being constructed. An option
is to complete the stair wells first if
these are part of the structural design.
Picture 14. Esmeraldas.
This section just did not pancake but will do so with the
next aftershock. The weakest points in the structure are
the maximum moment areas in the columns. The concrete
crumbled as a combination of the large forces and poor
quality. Lack of confinement or caging of the broken
concrete makes the steel reinforcement useless.

Picture 15. Esmeraldas.

The lack of confinement of the
broken concrete causes the pebbles to
fall away, by which the interaction
between steel and concrete is lost.
This is invariably the major cause of
the collapse of reinforced concrete
Building earthquake resistant means
that although the construction (here
the concrete) is broken the building
remains standing without collapse.
This way people can still evacuate
the damaged construction.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Picture 16. Esmeraldas.

The lack of adequate anchorage between the support beam
and the column allows the beam to be disconnected from the
column; it also reduces the confinement of broken concrete.
It is possible that the
design drawings did not
specify the anchorage
of the reinforcement
bars, or that the
contractor did not put
them according to
correct drawings.
These kind of details indicate the need for precise control of the
design as well as on-the-job verification of the reinforcement
BEFORE the concrete is cast.
Picture 17. Esmeraldas.
The sketches were made from pictures and
demonstrate the lack of anchorage and the lack of
stirrups found.

The minimum anchoring length of the bars linking beams to columns is specified in all Reinforced
Concrete Codes and is minimal 30 cm. The vertical sections of the reinforcement bar (sketches
below) should be minimal 12 x the bar diameter. Technical drawings should be verified by qualified
engineers. Reinforcement drawings should have detailed cutting and bending schedules that can be
followed by the iron workers. Before the concrete is cast in situ, a detailed inspection should be
realised of all bars fitted in place, as well as the quality and cleanliness of the formwork.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Picture 18. Esmeraldas.

Another reason of the collapse of
the buildings was the poor quality
of the concrete casting, in some
cases exposing too large aggregates
and large honeycomb areas.
For the casting of concrete into
reinforced columns, long funnels
are required that avoid disaggregation caused by drops of over
one meter.
First placing fine
aggregate concrete slurry in the
bottom of the column formwork
reduces air pockets and assures
adequate covering of the bars.
Picture 19. Esmeraldas.
Stirrups on cast columns and on
prepared columns are spaced widely
so they do not form the required
caging of the concrete at the
maximum moment areas.
Omitting the closer spacing causes
the broken concrete to fall out of
the column and the column to fail.
This lack of stirrups is one of the
main causes of collapsing buildings,
pan-caking and many human fatalities.
constructions in earthquake areas are
characterized by closely spaced stirrups in
all maximum moment areas of the columns
and beams.
When the earthquake forces exceed largely
the design force (it is never known what
will be the force of the earthquake!), the
broken concrete will be contained in the
cage and will still interact with the steel
stress reinforcement. This will create a
ductile and deforming connection that will
absorb the impact of the shake and continue
to withstand large
forces without total
structural collapse.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

The mass of the building is moved

because of the earthquake. When the
earthquake forces exceed the design
parameters, the alternating forces of the
earthquake first break the concrete on one
side of the column and subsequently on
the other side.
By repeated movements and lack of
stirrups, the broken concrete will fall out
of the construction and the steel will bend,
becoming useless.

Picture 20. Esmeraldas.

To allow large spans for the floors,
these have been made stronger and
stiffer by the use of hollow ceramic
bricks and hollow cement blocks.
The spaces between the blocks are
filled with concrete to create T
beams by which the top layer
functions as the pressure layer.

The sketch below is made from another photo. Like in the photo above it was observed that the large
weight of the infill floor pulled the double reinforcement bars out of the narrow concrete T beams in
between the infill blocks. The photo below was taken in a section of the building which was not yet
build up to the second floor, showing the design of the floor with the hollow blocks.

Replacing concrete by hollow bricks or cement blocks does bring the overall weight of the floor down
as compared to a solid floor, but also adds on the dead weight of the hollow blocks. As can be
observed from the picture above a lot of concrete will seep into the broken blocks, adding on mass.
Using hollow cassette moulds or the very lightweight EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) is advised instead.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Picture 21. Esmeraldas.

Multi storey or apartment buildings tend to have slender columns using little floor space. In addition
they require long floor spans, also minimizing the amount of columns. To minimise also the amount
of beams, the floors are made with a high profile and therefore are becoming thick and stiff.
In the upper line of sketches the
building has thick and stiff floors
with slender supporting columns.
During a earthquake the bottom
columns receive the largest forces
and bend; walls crack and the
whole building will pancake.
In the second line of sketches the
floors have a ductile design,
allowing to absorb some of the
shock. Floors will be waving and
cracking. With properly designed
columns the faade may crack, but
the building would not collapse.

Apartment buildings in which the floors are stiffer than the columns, and the columns do not have a
ductile design, these buildings will collapse, pancake and cause the death of the inhabitants.
Picture 22. Esmeraldas.
A large building under construction
had a design mistake in the upper
floor dilatation joint. Due to the
different horizontal movements of
the two building blocks the line of
supporting columns broke and the
floor cracked.
The sketch below shows the design
mistake and a detail of the damaged
column feet, also having inadequate
amount of stirrups.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Picture 23. Esmeraldas.

The middle section of this
collapsed because of a design
mistake of a heavy awning or
entrance overhang above the
building main entrance.

The vertical vibration of the earthquake broke the columns to which

the awning is attached. Through failing of the two columns, the
three floors above also collapsed.
Several measurements would have avoided the above type of damage:
(1) A much lighter construction, hence the earthquake force would have been much smaller.
(2) Hanging the awning suspended from the floor above, not causing forces on the columns.
(3) Having a couple of support columns under the outside of the awning.
(4) Having made the two support columns deeper and stronger to withstand the additional load.
(5) Having the awning individually supported, not being attached to the columns.

Picture 24. Esmeraldas

Staircases need to continue
functioning as an escape route
during an earthquake. Either the
construction should be designed
stronger or more ductile to
withstand the earthquake forces.
Diagonal forces may cause a
horizontal load on the middle of a
column, creating a moment force to
which the column was not
designed. Either the column should
be reinforced here or the flight of
the stairs loosely supported.

Diagonal forces

Damage on support columns

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010

Sliding supports


On 23 December 1972 an earthquake magnitude 6.3 Richter struck the centre of the Managua, leaving
over 5,000 death, over 20,000 injured and over 250,000 people homeless.
All of the high rise buildings in Managua had reinforced concrete frame structures and although many
were strongly damaged, only few of them totally collapsed and pancaked. As more often is the case,
commercial high rise buildings are constructed according to adequate engineering standards, but
lower buildings have less strict design standards applied to, and suffer less strict control during the
building process. Engineers in Managua did not design according to the seismic requirements relative
to the high earthquake risk if the area.
Investigation by a team of engineers from the US National Bureau of Standards (NBS) and the
National Academy of Engineering (NAE) performed field investigations 1 . The team concluded that
most damages appeared to result from the deficiencies in building practices, deficiencies which had
been exhibited many times before in previous earthquakes, deficiencies which would have been
avoided by implementation of up-to-date provisions for earthquake resistant design and construction.
Picture 25. Managua (1980).
Severe exterior non- structural
damage in unbraced frame building
Seguros La Protectora with typical
scissor cracks.
The force of an earthquake
increases with the mass of the
building. Therefore, with a equal
column structure for all floors, the
damage increases for every lower
Column reinforcement with a good
caging of the maximum moment
areas is most important at these
lower floors.
The reason for the area not being rebuilt lies largely in the political field, because the 1972 president
Anastasio Somoza has stolen large part of the multi million dollar international humanitarian aid.
Eventually these abuses of power led to the socialist Sandinista revolution, who toppled him and his
government in July 1979. Secondly, lack of reconstruction lies in the economic field, because with
the socialistic government no international investors were redeveloping their companies.
By rebuilding permanent structures in the same area, the soil characteristics as well as the recent 1972
earthquake need to be taken into consideration. Because in 2010 the tectonic fault areas are better
defined than 50 years ago, and more is known about soil structures, the building codes have a more
precise zone definition for the risk level. However the government should have a proper regulatory
system which is capable of the correct implementation of the building Codes before rebuilding.

NBS technical note TN-807. Building performance in the 1972 Managua Earthquake. 155 pages.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


The earthquake of 26 December 2004 off the coast of Sumatra-Andaman had a magnitude of 9.2
Richter and resulted worldwide in over 230,000 deaths in fourteen countries, mainly due to the
following tsunami. The position of the hypocentre was 160 km off the coast of Sumatra and at a depth
of 30 km. Reconstruction activities took place over the next five years and included constructions that
would better withstand earthquakes, especially in Indonesia.
Although many reconstruction organisations had qualified staff and site supervision, not all project
staff had the necessary knowledge to realise good quality earthquake resistant concrete work. For
some the impression existed that a lot of reinforcement iron would make the building strong.
However, it is more important that the iron is placed in the right places and concrete is good quality.
Picture 26. Aceh.
The amount of iron
junction above the
column does not
allow concrete to
work in unison
with the steel.
flexible hinge.
The reinforcement design of the ring beams should be detailed showing the reinforcement bars going
around the corner, instead of ending with hooks inside the columns.

Left Sketch: Illustrates the applied reinforcement. In reality, four bars were applied in both the
upper layer and bottom layer of the beam.
Middle Sketch: Illustrates the correct application of the beam reinforcements. These go through the
column, around the corner and end in a hook, providing minimal a 40 bar diameter overlap. The
possibility exists to add another diagonal bar (dotted line) depending on the force calculations. In the
areas of the maximum moment, in the beam as well as in the column, additional stirrups should have
been placed with 5-6 cm spacing.
Right Sketch: Illustrates the same principle for a T-junction.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


Picture 27. Aceh.

Another picture from the same building
complex. There is an absence of stirrups in the
maximum moment area of the column.

During an earthquake the short columns will most likely break just under the upper floor beam and
above the lower foundation beam, possibly leading to the dropping of the building over 1.50 meter.
The sketches below explain the process of failure during one forward and backward shock. In reality,
a series of shocks occur during an earthquake, continuing the described process and resulting in the
column collapsing, and with that bringing the building down.

The following sketch on the left illustrates the forces that occur in the current structural design. Only
the stilt column is subject to a strong bending moment, while the upper stiffener column and tie-beam
only receive compression and stress forces when the infill masonry wall remains intact. In such a
case, the steel bar reinforcement pattern sketched on the right is recommended. Better still is when
the floor beam is lighter or thinner than the column, shifting the possible failure area to the beam.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


Picture 28. Aceh.

Sand being collected from the seashore this should never be used for reinforced concrete. The high
salt content of the sand will corrode the iron and the expanding iron will break off the outer layer of
the concrete by which further corrosion will take place, especially in a seas side area.
Picture 29. Aceh
bars have been pulled out
of the broken concrete,
demonstrating insufficient
adherence to the concrete.
This is often due to poor
sometimes can be caused
by inappropriate steel
More thin and profiled
bars are recommended
over a few large bars.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


The massive 7.6 Richter earthquake of 8 October 2005 destroyed all houses in Balakot, and caused
heavy damage in Manshera and further districts of the Muzaffarabad region. The depth of this
earthquake was about 25 km, its effects being spread over a 50 km wide area. In Islamabad, 65 km
away, some poorly constructed apartment buildings, the Margalla towers, pancaked. Over 80,000
people were killed and over 3 million people were left homeless. The at that time estimated
reconstruction cost was over 5000 million USD.
Only about 250,000 of the approximate 780,000
damaged buildings were reinforced concrete
constructions or combinations of reinforced
concrete with masonry infill walls. Many of
these houses collapsed and were damaged
beyond repair due to lack of adherence to any
earthquake building Code.
Picture 30. Balakot.
Column damage above the ground floor in a
five storey building. Lack of closely spaced
stirrups is shown here. The maximum moment
in the column occurred just below the very stiff
beam-floor construction. The whole building
needs to be taken down because this damage
cannot be repaired. With sufficient stirrups the
situation may have been different, and with
retrofitting, including some shear walls, the
building could have been saved.

Picture 31. Balakot.

The lower part of a column. The poor quality of
the concrete is visible here. Almost no large size
stone aggregate and having a very porous
structure. The lack of stirrups allowed the
concrete crumbs to fall down.
The steel bars come almost clean out of the
broken concrete, indicating the inadequate
adherence between the steel and the concrete. A
low cement content, too much water, poor
quality aggregates, or lack of vibration at the
time of casting the columns do regularly occur
with lack of adequate site supervision.
When the quantity of the reinforcement bars is
calculated on the lowest concrete quality b for
reinforced columns of 21 N/mm2 (210 kg/cm2),
but this strength is not achieved, the
construction will fail when moderately stressed.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


Picture 32. Balakot.

Although this line of shops did not
yet have their second stories, all of
them were destroyed. Considering
the extending reinforcement on the
roofs, the addition of another
storey was considered. Their
connected length causes opposing
wave forces in the same long
building and part of the damage.
The column design based on the
lack of shear walls, should have
been able to withstand the forces.
Pictures. 33. Balakot.

This building on the right had large concrete triangles as the upper part of the columns. When the
thinner part of the columns failed (lack of stirrups) the triangles became the new legs under the roof.
An example is in the left picture. The roof resting on the large triangles allowed the occupants to
escape alive from the damaged building. It is unlikely that the building was designed to perform this
way in case of earthquake failure, but it is possible to create safe areas in buildings using this design.
Picture 34. Balakot.
Pancaked building. Also the
reducing the possibility of
escape. Iron reinforcement bars
are being scavenged for reuse.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010


Picture 35. Balakot.

The generally poor concrete quality
allowed the removal of the broken
concrete from in between the
For floor and roof reinforcements,
the use of a thinner reinforcement
mesh (welded) would have been
more economic and would have
provided better adherence to the
concrete through the increased
number of thinner bars.

The reconstruction of Balakot required more than five years, is still ongoing and includes also the
reconstruction of the stone masoned houses. To make the new houses more earthquake resistant the
use of wall reinforcement and concrete columns will be an important part of the package. It was
recognised by the Federal and Provincial State that training of village masons and contractors would
be an essential element in the success of better reconstruction. This is especially so because most
houses that will be reconstructed will be so called non-engineered constructions.
In order to train large numbers of masons and concrete workers a cascade system of training was
developed after a team of experts had developed appropriate curriculum on the subjects.
22 Training Coordinators were developed who became involved in:
training at district level of 150 staff from Housing Reconstruction Centres was organised to
become Master Trainers, who became involved in:
training at council level of 650 staff from Partner Organisations to develop Mobile Teams.
The Mobile Training Teams were in charge of the training of artisans, masons, self-builders,
building contractors, communities, etc.
An important task of these different training units was the awareness raising among the population
about the possible seismic hazards and the reasons of the extensive building damage. Important in this
phase was that it became better understood that earthquakes are recurrent natural phenomena, and that
the resulting disasters were man-made due to poor construction habits. These trainings were realised
in one-day programmes during which also the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation
Authority (ERRA) distributed guidelines and posters.
In special programmes attention was given to educate the females because they often supervise house
construction when the males are working elsewhere. Radio programmes included answering sessions
of questions from the field. Newspapers focussed regularly on the issues and disseminated
construction technology. Other media such as exhibitions and school discussions were part of the
educational programmes that would lead to awareness raising among the population on better
construction techniques.

Reinforced Concrete Construction Failures, May 2010