Earthquakes could endanger older New York City buildings

August 24, 2011 02:54PM

While newer city buildings have been built to withstand even extremely
rare and heavy earthquakes, older buildings from the mid-20th century
might not be properly reinforced, WNYC reported. Frederick Schwartz,
who designed the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, said that while
buildings from the 1920s and 1930s with heavy masonry were probably
secure, he would be concerned about skyscrapers from the 1940s and
1950s that might need to be reexamined and reinforced for the event of
an earthquake larger than yesterday’s. Those buildings, he said, pushed
the envelope in terms of their thinness and the way their glass was constructed to withstand seismic events.

Robert Otani, a structural engineer
for Thorton Tomasetti, said that while New York building codes have
some of the highest standards in the world, requiring structures to be
able to withstand a hypothetical earthquake worse than any in the last in 2,500 years, a substantial
number of existing buildings have no designed earthquake resistance, a
problem that worsens as materials deteriorate.

Otani is part of a
committee that is considering ways to make buildings more
earthquake-safe, though he said often the ideal, but not always
practical, solution would be to tear down structurally unsound
buildings. Since yesterday’s earthquake was benign, architect Michael
Lehrer said that it was a good opportunity to reexamine current
building codes. [WNYC]