Retrofitting guidelines to be unveiledTwo years after a devastating earthquake levelled hundreds of thousands of houses in the country, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has prepared the Seismic Retrofitting Guidelines of Buildings to help builders retrofit existing buildings and make them earthquake resistant.
Two years after a devastating earthquake levelled hundreds of thousands of houses in the country, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has prepared the Seismic Retrofitting Guidelines of Buildings to help builders retrofit existing buildings and make them earthquake resistant.
The government expects the guidelines to be of great assistance as they show builders how to restore buildings that have been partially damaged by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.
However, the guidelines, which are slated to be launched on Sunday, lack a monitoring mechanism, raising doubts about their effective implementation.
Right after the earthquake in 2015, government inspectors had conducted a safety assessment of various buildings and affixed three types of colour-coded stickers on them depending on the severity of the damage—green sticker which means safe for habitation, yellow sticker meaning repair required and red sticker which means the building has to be demolished or thoroughly repaired.
Due to the absence of retrofitting guidelines, the government did not issue proper directives to building owners to make them safe for habitation. In such a situation, many homeowners undertook repairs as they saw fit or compromised on safety.
Once the government policy goes into effect, property owners can hire consultants or engineers and get their buildings assessed based on the retrofitting guidelines.
Property owners need to prepare a report and submit it to government agencies like Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) or the Division Office depending on their location along with a retrofitting plan. After obtaining the go-ahead, they can initiate the process of restoring the building.
However, aspects related to monitoring the restoration seem to have been neglected. There is no provision for monitoring the retrofitting process. MoUD officials gave no definite answer when asked about the reason behind the absence of a provision related to supervision.
“Different buildings have different cases. We believe owners of standalone homes will not compromise on the safety of their property and themselves. As for builders, there will certainly be scrutiny,” an official with the MoUD told the Post.
“The impact of the guidelines may not be that great at this point in time as many house owners have already made alternative arrangements. It will be handy for people in case there is a similar disaster in the future.”
While the National Building Code 1994 (105) included the Seismic Design of Buildings in Nepal, it did not touch the aspect related to the retrofitting of buildings.
The guidelines contain different provisions for adobe, masonry and reinforced cement concrete (RCC) structures. According to the MoUD, the guidelines will be applicable throughout the country.
The ministry plans to conduct training programmes for engineers and technicians so that they can understand the technical details in the guidelines for different structures.
“The guidelines are just a theoretical base, and it will be difficult for the general public to understand them. Hence, training sessions will be held in several phases to prepare adequate technical teams,” the ministry official said.
According to the ministry, the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake claimed 8,790 lives while over 23,300 were injured. More than 500,000 residential buildings and 2,656 office buildings were completely destroyed and almost 200,000 residential buildings and 3,622 office buildings were partially damaged.
Likewise, over 19,000 school rooms were completely damaged and more than 11,000 rooms were partially damaged.