Nepal quake highlights Building Code

The Myanmar Engineering Society is urging developers to follow the National Building Code, after the Nepal earthquake raised concerns on the ability of local buildings to survive disasters.

The code is still in draft form, and was initially written in English in 2012. Although it must be passed by parliament to become law, experts say they hope it can serve as a voluntary guide to developers until it is approved.

Myanmar Engineering Society (MES) spokesperson U Kyi Lwin, who is also involved with drafting the code, said some contractors and developers have used the code, although awareness of it has not yet been spread widely.

“Currently we’ve only completed an English draft … If the code receives commitment from decision makers, the whole country will be using it systematically and buildings are going to be stronger,” he said.
Nepal was struck by an earthquake on April 25 that left an estimated 7500 people dead.

Experts say the earthquake has highlighted Myanmar’s need to address building standards, to help mitigate destruction in the event of a local earthquake. The lack of a nationwide document on construction standards results in uneven quality of buildings across the country.

Developers often use different international codes or locally developed practices as reference points, which vary significantly in producing quality buildings.

“When the National Building Code official appears, every contractor will have to build systematically, constructing buildings that are more resilient to natural disasters,” said U Kyi Lwin.

The MES is currently translating the document to Myanmar. After that is complete, they will submit it to the Ministry of Construction, which will edit the code before final confirmation by parliament.

“We just drew up the code and will wait for a decision. Currently we are translating to Myanmar because the draft is only in English – but if it is confirmed, it needs to be understood by everybody,” he said.
Experts have also said that the recent earthquake in Nepal has highlighted the importance of having strong rules on construction in Myanmar.

U Kyaw Thu, program specialist at UN-Habitat, said there is an urgent need to get the code in place.
“This code can really help for resilience of buildings and safer residences, rather than building randomly,” he said.

The draft National Building Code has seven chapters, covering areas including structure, health and safety and building services. The structures section, Chapter 3, deals in part with making sure buildings withstand natural disasters.

While all buildings face a certain amount of risk, those built not to code and with unqualified engineers are the most at risk.

“We see some contractors here who are not licensed: They build only with carpenters. Those buildings don’t have strong resistance, so when an earthquake happens, the buildings become dangerous,” U Kyaw Thu said.

UN-Habitat has surveyed areas in Sagaing and Bago regions and Taungoo city in Shan State, drafting a map showing at-risk townships. The survey was then reported to regional governments. Local government can then refer to the map for a location’s exposure to earthquakes when extending townships or building industrial zones or power projects.

U Kyaw Thu said the next step is to survey Yangon and Pyay township, aiming to complete reports on the two by 2016.

“Knowing about earthquake faults and constructing strong buildings goes a long way to reducing injury from natural disasters,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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