Risk assessment and mitigation
Owners of large portfolios of buildings and urban authorities are frequently faced with the problem of assessing the risks to the building stock for which they are responsible and deciding on the most effective strategy for mitigating that risk. CAR has experience of working with clients whose concern is either with a single facility or an entire urban system, and has developed approaches appropriate to each situation.
Single facility risks
Companies owning large commercial or industrial buildings and facilities cannot rely solely on their insurers to manage their risk, either because facultative insurance can be prohibitively expensive if the buildings are considered high-risk, or because they face increasingly onerous regulations which were not anticipated when their ageing buildings were designed.
Yet, routine demolition of existing buildings every time the building regulations are revised is economically unrealistic and often unnecessary, since the fact that a building does not comply with current regulations does not automatically mean that it is unsafe. In such cases, CAR can employ its probabilistic approach to assess the risk for any given facility and recommend cost-effective solutions for reducing that risk to acceptable levels and ensuring that the building can continue to be safely used until the natural end of its life.
Such recommendations may involve strengthening or replacing compromised elements of the building’s structure or cladding, or introducing simple changes in the management of the building, for example ensuring that the large doors of an industrial shed are kept closed during a windstorm to minimise air pressure differentials. This approach, which is based on a detailed analysis of the structural system, can often save the client millions of pounds in unnecessary rebuilding costs and high insurance premiums.
In the case of public sector clients such as government and international agencies responsible for civil protection, the focus on risk mitigation is even stronger, although the task usually involves analysing entire urban settlements or even regions rather than individual buildings. CAR has a long track record in carrying out studies of this kind in many countries. The objective of such work is to evaluate the risk in terms of human casualties and building damage, and use this evaluation to propose a comprehensive mitigation strategy potentially covering everything from development control, new building regulations, advice on repair and retrofitting of the most vulnerable buildings, conservation plans for historic buildings, through to the design of disaster relief and recovery plans.
CAR Director Emily So is coordinating the Global Earthquake Consequences Database (GEMECD). This is a GIS relational database that will inform users about the consequences of the most significant earthquakes in the past 40 years and provide a benchmarking tool for analytical loss models in the future. The project includes the development of an interface enabling damage from future earthquakes to be captured and uploaded to the database.
The legacy of the project will be a web accessible database for the ongoing service of GEM users. For current events, GEMECD will serve as a clearing house of information, posted by users based on the standards and protocols set in the GEMECD documentation. In the long term, GEMECD will be a repository of the most relevant and validated data on consequences of the important earthquakes of the last century.
GEM brings together experts from leading universities and research organisations around the world, including Cambridge Architectural Research. Google and Willis Re are both official collaborators on this project.
See GEM’s openquake website for details.