EERI Distinguished Lecture: Life Safety in the City – There is more to Life than not being Crushed

Date: March 14, 2018

Presenter: Dr. Lucy Jones, Ph.D.; Research Associate – Seismological Lab at Caltech, Pasadena, CA.

The Resilience by Design program adopted by Los Angeles to address earthquake vulnerabilities brought together the earth science, earthquake engineering and public policy professions and worked with hundreds of community organizations to get approval for sweeping seismic resilience legislation. The process elucidated the disconnect between what well-informed members of the community and local governments understand about the earthquake risk and the goals and objectives of mitigation measures like building codes, and what has been implemented in most communities.

Since their inception, building codes have been based on a principle that safety is the only valid concern of government. If an owner chooses to build a building that is a total financial loss, that is his prerogative but he cannot kill someone in the process. A key factor is that building codes consider buildings in isolation with impacts only on their owners and tenants. But the reality of a major earthquake is that the failure of a building impacts the whole community through economic disruption, population decreases, and cascading failures of engineered and social systems.

This talk explored a conceptual framework for creating a building code that reflects the realities of earthquake losses and the social dynamics of shared economic decisions.

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