PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

New Madrid Seismic Zone: Overview of Earthquake Hazard and Magnitude Assessment Based on Fragility of Historic Structures

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May 2003, 85 pages

Earthquake hazard assessment is a long-standing concern in areas prone to these natural disasters. Although housing construction in the U.S. is considered to be relatively earthquake-resistant in comparison to many forms of construction found worldwide, the assessment of seismic hazard has significant implications to the balance of housing affordability and safety.

Recent advances in seismic hazard characterization and earthquake engineering have culminated in the seismic design provisions of the International Building Code (IBC-2000) and the International Residential Code (IRC-2000). As both codes are currently being considered for adoption by local jurisdictions across the country, concern has been raised about the accuracy and validity of the new seismic provisions in the Central and Eastern U.S., particularly in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), where the design level of ground motion exceeds that determined for many active seismic regions of California and represents a significant increase from historically used values.

A new study commissioned by HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) provides an overview of the seismic hazard characterization procedures used in the NMSZ and implemented in the IBC-2000 and the IRC-2000.

Specifically, the study provides the results of a series of structural fragility evaluations of historic accounts of building damage to provide additional and independent constraints on the magnitude estimates of the 1811-1812 earthquakes-- the most recent series of earthquakes in the NMSZ. This is particularly important because magnitude estimates are ultimately used for regulation of building construction through the use of seismic hazard maps that are integral to the development of seismic design provisions in modern building codes.

Results of this study further confirm the high level of seismic hazard in the NMSZ and the need for continued attention to and consideration of adequate mitigation measures. Additionally, the study makes recommendations for further research and implementation, including methods of performing future post-earthquake damage assessments and building evaluations.

To request a copy, please call 1-800-245-2691.

Content updated on 12/10/2003

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