Disaster risk reduction and the earthquake code: a disconnect

George Walker, Rade Musulin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The application of current earthquake engineering knowledge through structural design codes has greatly reduced the loss of life from earthquakes in countries where the use of such codes has been normal practice for several decades. However it has not had a commensurate effect on disaster risk reduction as was clearly demonstrated in Christchurch by the Canterbury earthquakes. Although the great majority of lives which were lost were the result of the failure of just one modern building - which evidence suggests was from poor design and not a code problem - many modern buildings, while performing well in terms of life safety, were nevertheless damaged beyond repair imposing major economic and social costs on the citizens of Christchurch in particular and, through greatly increased insurance premiums, New Zealand generally. This paper describes the disconnect between the nature of disaster risk reduction and current structural earthquake engineering design philosophy which arises because disasters are a function of community size as well as building vulnerability, whereas current design philosophy is focused entirely on the safety of individual buildings. It draws on ideas jointly developed with the late Paul Grundy and is presented as a tribute to his major contribution to this field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-80
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Journal of Structural Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Earthquake design
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Socioeconomic risk
  • Human safety
  • Insurance


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