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Structural safety standards must be taught in HS, says Phivolcs head

If all structures in the country complied with the National Building Code, there would be no damaged buildings even if after an intensity 8 quake, an earthquake expert said. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—Safety standards when constructing houses and establishments should be included in the high-school curriculum to ensure that Filipinos do not build substandard houses that may be smashed by minor quakes, Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said Wednesday.

If all structures in the country complied with the National Building Code, there would be no damaged buildings even if after an intensity 8 quake, Solidum told ABS-CBN News days after a “minor quake” in Zambales flattened a 4-story building in Pampanga and triggered cracks in several structures in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. 

“Dapat ang building standards at minimum safety itinuturo sa high school kasi kahit ang may mga PhD ngayon hindi alam ano ang minimum safety requirements sa materyales kasi hindi naman ito itinuturo sa paaralan,” he said.

(Building standards and minimum safety should be taught in high school, because even those with doctorate degrees are not aware of the minimum safety requirements for building materials because these are not taught in school.)

To build an earthquake-resistant house, its external walls must be made out of concrete hollow blocks that are at least 6-inches thick, while steel bars framing the house must be at least 10-millimeters in diameter, tied and spaced correctly, data from Phivolcs showed.

Houses that use reinforced concrete as foundation, and build on hard soil can better withstand a quake.

Local governments and schools with engineering courses should also offer free house structural integrity inspections, especially in communities where people could not afford to hire an engineer, Solidum said.

“Sa lindol, ang mga bahay ay parang mga pasyente na may sakit. So kung ang LGU ay may programa na medical mission para sa mga tao, dapat mayroon ding misyon para i-check ang mga bahay,” he said.

(During earthquakes, houses are like sick patients. If local government units have medical missions for people, it should also have a mission to check houses.)

Solidum said it is important to invest in the structural integrity of establishments as people do not die from quakes, but from fatal injuries due to falling objects or collapsed structures during tremors.