Architecture and natural disasters

July 18, 2019 | By: The Manila Times

The United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) has stressed the importance of having the right professional in building vertical structures.

This after recent earthquakes hit the country and damaged some provinces near Metro Manila.

Last April, a four-story grocery store in Porac, Pampanga collapsed following a 6.1 earthquake that left 16 people dead, including three children.

While the quake’s epicenter was in Castillejos, Zambales, several towns in Pampanga were most devastated due to the soft sediment made by the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

Skyscrapers in Metro Manila were not spared at they swayed for over five seconds during the tremor.

While it is inevitable for locations in earthquake-prone areas to have buildings, the quality of how they are made can be very important, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) said.

UAP National President Benjamin K. Panganiban said poorly-made structures often become quake victims and not getting the right professional can be blamed for this.

“Why is this happening? Maybe it is not done by registered and licensed professionals,” Panganiban said in an interview. “So this can be anybody trying to practice the profession. He could be one building without the proper educational background. He just wants profit,” he added.

He said majority of high-rise buildings in Metro Manila — most especially in business districts in Makati and Taguig —have adhered to the required building standards. However, he said many substandard structures are standing in suburban areas.

For years, UAP has been pushing for the reinforcement of the Architecture Law, which is often ignored in the construction of suburban and low-budget structures.

One step that should be taken, Panganiban said, is to strictly issue architectural permits. He said these permits must be solely signed by architects and not by any other professionals. Doing so, he said, will ensure that building plans and designs are checked by the prime professional in vertical structures.

“Architectural permits should be secured before construction, which shall only be signed by architects and not by other professional,” he said.
If there is failure in a building’s feature, the right professional doing the scope of work for plans and specifications of the structure, will be the one liable,” Panganiban added.

In some cases where defects in the ground or the building collapses due to inferior materials, the contractor would liable as per the Civil Code of the Philippines.

“That is why the right professional will make sure the building is constructed the right way,” he said.

Moving forward

Panganiban said future home and building owners should know where to have their structures built.

“We would like to point out there are areas in the Philippines that are prone to earthquakes and they have been mentioned by government agencies. Preventing or informing the public that these areas should not be utilized for that purpose must be done,” he said.

If they insist on choosing these locations, then applicable technology should be applied in construction in such a manner that it adapts to such environment and conditions. In short, one has to move to another location or spend more for higher technology, he said.

Panganiban added architects are responsible for site analysis — terrain, location and other factors. Aside from it, they should determine the interrelationships within in an area or environment. He said architects are equipped to check the circulatory and functional flows of the structure to be built in relation to other factors.

“As an urban planner, the architect can actually visualize and foresee the effects of natural calamities in areas or in a man-made structure. That’s where the expertise of the architect comes in,” he said.

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