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Degenkolb Visits Ecuador Earthquake site

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Mutualista Pichincha in Portoviejo before and after earthquake (photo on left courtesy of Google)

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Time for Awareness
Degenkolb Engineers continued its 64-year-old tradition of learning from earthquakes by sending Senior Principal, Jay Love and Associates Gordy Wray and Alvaro Celestino to Ecuador following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 16, 2016. The quake struck at 7pm and caused severe damage in the northern coastal regions of the country.

The Degenkolb team partnered with Perkins Eastman Architects to inspect a number of hospitals and schools operated by the Junta de Beneficencia de Guayaquil. This private non-profit charity organization was founded in 1888 and provides health care and education to low-income Ecuadorians. Ground motions in the Guayaquil area from this earthquake 175 miles to the north were low and damage in hospitals was minimal. All hospitals that were visited were able to maintain normal function immediately after the earthquake. The team of engineers, architects and hospital administrators exchanged ideas on the measures to be taken, small and large, to maintain operations in a larger event.

Sharing Lessons Learned
Strong shaking in the cities of Manta and Portoviejo resulted in the collapse of many buildings, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced from their homes. Gordy Wray visited the downtown area of Portoviejo on April 26 and observed that the method of construction was similar to that of Guayaquil, reinforcing that the potential for severe damage in Guayaquil, the most populous city in Ecuador, is high. Jay Love, Senior Principal, noted, “Ecuador has an opportunity in the coming months to seize on the awareness brought by the earthquake to improve the code enforcement, construction, and inspection process to limit future exposure.”

Structural damage is often the focus of earthquakes but non-structural damage to architectural finishes, contents and mechanical systems is more likely to disrupt operations, especially under lower levels of shaking. Both need to be addressed, especially for critical infrastructure.

Degenkolb and Perkins Eastman addressed the Chamber of Construction of Guayaquil to share the process that was implemented for seismic mitigation of hospitals in California, acknowledging that it is a long process and there are obstacles along the way. Conversations with engineers, developers and local government are continuing after the trip to create a dialogue about seismic safety.

Visit this blog to read about Degenkolb’s Ecuador earthquake reconnaissance trip.

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