Webinar to address building safety

nibsKeith A. Porter, PE, PhD, a research professor with the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Principal with SPA Risk LLC, will deliver the first in a series of webinars to be held by the National Institute of Building Sciences Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC). Entitled, “Safe Enough? How the Building Code Protects Our Lives but Not Our Cities,” the webinar will be held Wednesday, April 23, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm EDT.

Conventional wisdom holds that greater seismic resilience of the building stock is impractical; that the public would be unwilling to pay for it; that the public has no proper role in setting seismic performance objectives; and that current seismic provisions encode the proper measures and goals of seismic performance.

However, recent projects cast doubt on these conventionalities. In light of performance expectations for new buildings expressed in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) P-695: Quantification of Building Seismic Performance Factors and embedded in the International Building Code, current design objectives leave open the serious risk that future, large, but not-very-rare, earthquakes would damage enough buildings to displace millions of people and hundreds of thousands of businesses from a major metropolitan area. Such a catastrophe would have a more severe impact than Hurricane Katrina because it could affect larger, and more economically critical, metropolitan areas.

Projects such as the San Francisco Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) Soft Story Project; the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE)-California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Woodframe Project; and the construction of buildings that exceed code-minimum seismic performance at marginal additional cost all suggest that better seismic resilience is practical, affordable and actually desired by the public. The way the public interpreted the 2008 ShakeOut scenario, an earthquake drill hosted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), suggests that Americans think about seismic performance differently than do structural engineers, and they expect better performance than building codes provide.

Dr. Porter will discuss how it is necessary to reconsider how to measure earthquake risk, how to properly balance risk and construction cost, and how to reflect that balance in code objectives.

A licensed professional engineer, Dr. Porter received degrees in civil and structural engineering from University of California, Davis; University of California, Berkeley; and Stanford University. He specializes in second-generation, performance-based earthquake engineering, seismic vulnerability and societal risk from natural disasters. Porter helped lead the MMC’s Mitigation Saves study, which estimated that FEMA’s natural hazard mitigation efforts save $4 per $1 spent. He served as the engineering coordinator for the USGS Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) scenarios, ShakeOut earthquake scenario, ARkStorm severe winter storm scenario, SAFRR tsunami scenario and the in-progress Haywired earthquake scenario. He also performed risk analysis for the CAPSS Soft Story Project and the CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project.

To access the webinar, “Safe Enough? How the Building Code Protects Our Lives but Not Our Cities,” sign in on April 23 at 11:45 EDT and select the “Enter as a guest” option to join in. For audio, call 800-689-7800 and enter code 430588. Don’t be late. Only the first 125 participants will be admitted.

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