CHIANG RAI -Â The Thailand Research Fund (TRF) has launched a project to educate local engineers and handymen to repair and rebuild quake-damaged houses.
It is based on experience learned from the devastating earthquake that shook Chiang Rai peopleâ€™s homes and morale two years ago – and on an engineering principle that structures could be strong enough to withstand tremors.
TRF joined with a research team in launching a workshop on quake-resistant building construction and a media visit to Chiang Rai’s Mae Lao and Phan districts late in April. The researchers led journalists to inspect the fault zone and the epicentre in Tambon Dong Mada of the 6.1-magnitude quake that rocked Chiang Rai’s Mae Lao, Mae Suay, Phan and Muang districts on May 5, 2014.
A survey of Mae Lao houses less than 10km from the epicentre found many homes, elevated on pillars and with an open ground floor, suffered from the ‘soft storey’ phenomenon (having first-storeys much less rigid than those above and susceptible to quake damage), leading to pillar failure and the collapse.
For partially damaged homes, metal round bars and thicker layers of mortar were suggested for pillars sized at least 25cm x 25cm. Wooden houses were advised to use metal sheets and four screws or more to pin a beam-pillar linkage point, he added.
Phan district is located on soft-layer soil sediments and felt the tremors 1.6 times more powerful than usual. Phan Pittayakom School’s four-storey building was among those severely damaged. The building’s open ground floor was modified to be walled up – but it had too-wide pillar stirrups, resulting in multiple-pillar failure and big cracks.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn granted personal funds of Bt42.18 million to demolish and rebuild the school building which was designed by TRF researchers.
Among the researchers designing this school building was earthquake-proof building design expert Assoc Prof Paiboon Panyakapo. He said the new building was strengthened by six 30cm-thick sheer walls, tighter stirrups, and 55cm-sized pillars. School director Sanong Sujarit said the building was slated for completion earlier this year, but the construction was extended to ensure this royally granted building would be well enforced. It will now be complete in October.
The workshop at Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna to promote engineering preparedness of buildings in quake-risk areas was attended by 100 people, including local engineers, handymen and students.
Topics tabled included Amorn’s presentation of lessons from earthquake disasters in Mae Lao, Nepal, Taiwan, Japan and Ecuador and Paiboon’s talk on enforcing walls to resist earthquake damage.
“TRF and the researchers realised the importance of creating the body of knowledge and passing on information obtained during studies and imparted to the communities via media.
Researchers believed Chiang Rai was Thailand’s most at-risk area for quakes in future. Building construction must be secure to be a worthwhile investment. “Strongly-erected buildings would save people’s lives and serve as shelters for affected residents [after a quake],” he added.
Amorn said another measure to implement was law enforcement so the government could ensure people’s safety. He urged state agencies to survey homes that weren’t repaired after the 2014 quake and allocate budget to aid the repairs. They should also fund improvements for buildings and homes along the 14 faults across Thailand to be up to safety par, starting with schools under the Office of the Basic Education Commission.
The group would also push for the construction of quake-resistant houses and the lifting of hospital building standards. It hoped for cooperation from the private sector to have private venues built securely, Amorn said. – The Nation