"For us East Coasters, our recent experience with an earthquake was an unusual one. Of course, they’re comparatively rare here and not as strong as the ones that plague the West Coast, but it still makes you think about what would happen to your house (and you) if a really big one hit. What about my house? Even aside from how it would stand up structurally, I’ve got a lot of books and bookcases – maybe an avalanche waiting to happen. Then there are the china cabinets – it really wouldn’t do to have grandma’s best strewn across the room in shards, would it?
When I start thinking about stuff like this, my natural inclination is to find a book. For example, there’s Homebuilders’ Guide to Earthquake-Resistant Design and Construction, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publication that’s been around for years. It’s for homebuilders, but also for homeowners who want some good information about safe homes and how some things can be made safer. It’s based on the International Residential Code (IRC) and explains the basic principles of earthquake-resistant design and what it calls “above-code” measures that can further reduce the amount of damage from an earthquake. I like the idea of guidelines that not only meet but exceed the standards, especially when they can affect safety.
This guide replaces the Home Builder's Guide to Seismic Resistant Construction and all earlier versions of FEMA 232. It presents seismic design and construction guidance for one- and two-family light frame residential structures that can be utilized by homebuilders, homeowners, and other non-engineers, and provides supplemental information to the 2003 edition of the International Residential Code. Includes background information on the principles of seismic resistance and how earthquake forces impact conventional residential construction and more detailed information on architectural considerations. Discussions of masonry and stone elements, examples of typical floor plans for earthquake resistant one- and two-story homes, excerpts of seismic requirements from building codes, and checklists for home builders are included. The guide also presents a series of "above code recommendations" and low cost measures that would increase the performance of the building and help keep it functional after an earthquake.
Here's a snap from the PDF;
And a snip from the Preface;
This publication presents seismic design and construction guidance for one- and two-family houses in a manner that can be utilized by homebuilders, knowledgeable homeowners, and other non-engineers. It incorporates and references the prescriptive provisions of the 2003 International Residential Code as well as the results of the FEMA-funded CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project. The manual includes prescriptive building detail plans based on state-of-the-art earthquake-resistant design for use by homebuilders and others in the construction of a non-engineered residential structure. Further, the manual also uses the results of recent loss investigations as well as current research and analysis results to identify a number of specific above-code measures for improved earthquake performance along with their associated costs. A typical modern house is used to illustrate the application and benefits of above-code measures. This manual replaces the Home Builders Guide to Seismic Resistant Construction (FEMA 232) published by FEMA in August 1998 as well as earlier FEMA and HUD versions
It's a few years old, but I doubt much as changed in this area in the five years since it was published. If you are into construction, professionally or as a hobby around the house, or are just interested in seeing ways to make your house (the biggest investment, besides kids, you'll ever make in your life) more earthquake resistant, this PDF is just a free download away...
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