3.1.11 Symposium @ CED
|Refugees of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.|
Kyoto University's Norio Maki compared the Kobe and Tohoku earthquakes. They were similar in terms of loss of life, but the Tohoku earthquake affected a coastline comparable to the one that stretches from SF to LA. The Tohoku earthquake zone has a much lower density than Kobe, with a declining population. The tsunami destroyed its fishing economy, also. His colleague Chiho Ochiai, a sociologist, studied a coastal village there that did better than most because its residents had a collective memory of previous tsunamis in the 1890s and 1930s.
|UCLA's Hitoshi Abe|
Abe and Makoto Shin Watanabe of Hosei University discussed Archi-Aid, a group that helps local governments plan reconstruction and also proposes larger redevelopment projects. Archi-Aid can be seen as an attempt to address the weaknesses of architects' individual, uncoordinated actions.) Abe showed a traveling exhibit, developed by an Archi-Aid participant, with topographic models of towns and villages destroyed or damaged by the tsunami. They prompted people to contribute their detailed memories of specific places.
|Hosei University's Makoto Shin Watanabe|
Kazuhiro Kasai of Tokyo Institute of Technology and David Mar of Tipping Mar in Berkeley discussed earthquake retrofitting in Japan and California, with Kasai showing small dampers, suitable for residential remodeling, and Mar describing a FEMA initiative (and online analytical tool) to address California's massive soft-story problem in older buildings. Kasai and Berkeley's Verna Terzic also discussed the relative merits of different seismic reinforcement schemes, with base isolation (BI-OCBF and BI-IMRF) doing especially well in minimizing the cost of getting a building back into operation after a seismic event.
In his wrap-up talk, George Kurumado of Takenaka, one of the Japan's largest construction companies, talked about the human and political issues around disaster preparation, including the tendency to ignore known risks because their implications are considered too costly or politically impossible. He argued for extending seismic regulations from their focus on life safety to a broader focus on resilience, nothing that the ability to come back from a disaster is crucial to business and provides a strong argument for higher building performance.
|Toyo Ito and collaborators in front of a small post-3.11 project.|
Kurumado noted that the decision to provide a relatively low sea wall and berm around the Fukushima nuclear reactor meant that everyone else took that pattern as the standard, although it was set to a medium-risk earthquake and tsunami, not a higher-risk one that would be an issue for such a critical facility. Locating the generators in the basement was the other fatal flaw - worse, as it turns out, than the sea wall-and-berm problem.
Kurumado's comment about ignoring the obvious applies right here at home, I thought. My own house is two blocks from the Hayward Fault, overdue for another event. (The last was in the 1860s.) We joke about playing "beat the clock," but in fact the Japanese pocket damper that Professor Kasai showed got my attention, as it could bring some affordable new tech into the retrofit picture.
As a public policy issue, 3.11 also raises the usual questions about society's willingness to prevent rather than rebuild. America loves its disasters. (Mar made a comparison between the "known factors" for high seismic damage and those leading to a heart attack.) Like the wellness movement, the current push for resilience - which sees seismic safety, energy performance, and social and business recovery as aspects of the same goal - may finally get some official muscle and cash behind it. That could led finally to the kind of preventive measures that would make sense in earthquake countries like California and Japan.