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The earthquake in Nepal has sent shockwaves around the world. In the last couple of years, residents of the UAE have also experienced tremors, though the epicentre of these earthquakes was located in the Iran-Pakistan border. So, how safe are the buildings in the UAE?
Geologists grade cities in a scale of one to four depending on how vulnerable they are to seismic activities. While cities like Tokyo and California figure in the high risk category of four in the Seismic Zone Factor, Dubai is listed below zero.
However, the Dubai Municipality issued new building codes in 2013 making it mandatory for buildings higher than 10 floors to be built to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.5-5.9 on the Richter scale. This would mean buildings taller than 10 floors must adhere to the building codes of Seismic Zone 2B. All commercial buildings, markets, hospitals, schools, and government and public buildings should also meet the Seismic 2B zone criteria. Buildings having five to 10 floors are required to follow the guidelines of Seismic Zone 2A and are able to withstand tremors of 5.0-5.5 on the Richter scale. The Sharjah Municipality has likewise imposed similar guidelines for buildings in 2013.
The aim of the new code with stricter guidelines for tall buildings was to adopt a safer approach. Experts believe that the new guidelines have raised the construction costs of buildings by 10 per cent. The main design elements that required changes included lift shafts, main core walls, coupling beams, columns, walls and foundation.
Meanwhile, the Dubai wind code states that structures should withstand a wind speed of 45 metres per second for a three-second gust, which is equivalent to 160 kilometres per hour. Based on the analyses of wind velocities recorded at Dubai International Airport from 1984 to 2008, the basic wind velocity for Dubai was 30 metres per second or 108 kilometres per hour. The wind code has also been formulated to take a cautious approach though there have been recommendations to relax it.
• Dubai is adopting the Zone 2A, 2B seismic codes for buildings
• Buildings above 10 floors should withstand tremors of up to 5.9
• Construction costs have risen by 10 per cent due to the new rule
Source: S. Dhar, Special to Properties
The writer is a freelancer