Crumbling homes

Posted by Derek Mason

6th December 2022

Caption: Historic Istanbul. Picture credit: Anna Berdnik on Unsplash

In what’s thought to be the largest urban renewal project of all time, Turkey’s government has set aside £297 billion to replace their crumbling buildings with earthquake-proof structures.
It’s a hefty amount to spend, but it’s much needed as a lot of buildings in the country are built without design or technical input, leaving them especially vulnerable to seismic activity and collapse.

This urban renewal work is already underway and out of the 6.7 million buildings in need of renewal, 1.5 million are deemed urgent and expected to be completed in the next couple of years. It’s thought that around a third of Turkey’s housing stock will be renewed over the following 15+ years.

Designing for earthquake resistance

Having worked in seismically active areas in South Africa, I’d suggest there are two appropriate ways to design buildings for earthquake resistance. One is to build for strength – to make a structure as stiff as possible. And the other is to allow flex, for example with a steel structure that sways to dissipate energy.

When buildings are not designed for an earthquake zone, it’s no great surprise that they might crumble.

When you set out to improve safety in a country with a history of rapid building and population growth, with a backdrop of unlicenced and illegal construction, it seems inevitable (unfortunately) that some historic buildings will be lost.

Therefore, one of the real challenges of this urban renewal project is the preservation of historic buildings that may be in different stages of disrepair. Four areas of Istanbul are Conservation Areas and are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, plus there are other sites across Turkey. It’s clear that many historic buildings in Turkey have come under threat with the rapid pace of development, but hopefully the historic buildings in these areas will be preserved rather than destroyed. Preserving these structures will be good for tourism as well as for conservation.

Overall, this renewal project is good news for Turkey, as it will become far safer for residents and tourists alike. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the country doesn’t lose too much of its heritage.

If you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, whether or not seismic activity is a consideration, please do get in touch.

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