Benefits of Building Codes

In the past 20 years, our understanding of how structures and materials respond to seismic events has grown tremendously. At the same time, building technologies have improved significantly in terms of efficiency. This means that new codes can save lives and save money.

As an example, Mike Chaney, Commissioner of the Mississippi Insurance Department, cited the impact of two major quakes in 2010, one in Chile and the other in Haiti. Although the Chile earthquake was much stronger (magnitude 8.8 compared with Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake) and both were felt in population centers, there were 521 casualties in Chile, but over 200,000 in Haiti. The Commissioner felt that stronger and enforced building codes were a major determinant of the difference.

An interesting story in Time Magazine in 2010 expands on this perspective. In it, John Mutter a seismologist and disaster expert at Columbia University’s Earth Institute notes, “Earthquakes don’t kill people, bad buildings kill them.”