Safety in Building Codes
From the editor
By Karen Hickey
Back in April, two earthquakes of at least 7.0 magnitude occurred — one on April 15 in Japan and the other on April 16 in Ecuador. It got me thinking… and Googling. I wrote in the last issue of Masonry that May was Building Safety Month. Building safety is based on building codes.
I came across an article by David Z. Morris in Fortune magazine: “L.A. Is Mandating Thousands of Earthquake Retrofits for Old Buildings.” Late last fall, Los Angeles had passed the nation’s strictest earthquake safety rules, requiring retrofitting of old buildings in the city. Japan has had strict building codes in place for decades, but 32 people still died in the Kumamoto region from the quake. Meanwhile, according to AIR Worldwide, “Building code enforcement varies within and across Ecuador [and] seismic performance of buildings…is greatly influenced by local construction practices.” The death toll from the earthquake in Ecuador was 272.
Building codes have played an integral part in shaping the masonry industry. Masonry structures may be required to have enhanced structural integrity as part of a comprehensive design against progressive collapse due to accident, misuse, sabotage or other causes. Standards from various organizations govern how we work every day. Not only do we adhere to state and local building codes, but many times we work in conjunction with an owner-engaged special inspector. When we follow code, we end up with a building that will last for many generations to come. We can place brick and CMU in a wall all day long, but if we allow for out-of-spec tolerance, incorrect material placement, or faulty workmanship, not only have we provided a misuse of our profession, but a structure in which the owner will be held liable.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Karen Hickey is the Editor of Masonry magazine.