How sturdy are U.S. building codes?

Jeff Tyler Mar 2, 2010
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How sturdy are U.S. building codes?

Jeff Tyler Mar 2, 2010
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Bill Radke: If there can be any hopeful news about the earthquake in Chile, it’s that it could have been worse. Structural engineers give credit to Chile’s building codes, which are, at least on paper, roughly similar to the ones in California. And how do building codes in the rest of the U.S. stack up? Here’s Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler.


Jeff Tyler: Building codes vary depending on the frequency of seismic activity. In the Northeast, for example, building codes rarely account for earthquakes, though historically there have been temblors in the region.

Jayanta Guin studies catastrophes for AIR Worldwide:

Jayanta Guin: Even a moderate-sized earthquake can cause quite a big economic loss in places like Boston and New York.

About 200 years ago, earthquakes between Memphis and St. Louis changed the course of the Mississippi River.

Kate Stillwell is a structural engineer with risk modeling company Eqecat. She says building codes in the Mississippi Valley have improved, but:

Kate Stillwell: A large portion is older construction, built before the seismic resisting codes were adopted.

Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a study looking at the impact of a major earthquake on eight states, including Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. It’s estimated this hypothetical quake could cause thousands of fatalities and $300 billion in direct economic losses.

In Los Angeles, I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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