Why Did So Many Sichuan Schools Collapse?

Caijing Magazine has conducted an investigation into the collapse of schools in the recent Wenchuan earthquake:

Caijing’s investigation of five schools that collapsed showed that none of the building sites had undergone a geological survey prior to . From day one, a combination of problematic design and poor , coupled with geological peril, meant these schools were time bombs waiting to be triggered by a natural disaster.

Strong shaking can cause buildings to tumble in one of two ways – in a brittle or ductile collapse, said Wang Bangjin, an engineer at the Ministry of Transportation. In a brittle collapse, a building can crumble to dust in a few seconds. In a ductile collapse, a damaged building can stand for a short while, allowing time for an evacuation.

All of Sichuan’s quake-wrecked schools experienced brittle collapse, according to Wang’s definition. They lacked the reinforced concrete that allows for a ductile collapse, often saving lives.


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