Buildings in Egypt
Rural Egypt - Egyptian Deserts -
Photos of temples, tombs and pyramids
Modern Egyptian Buildings
Currently Egypt is undergoing an explosion of biulding to match its population and expected tourist trade. Buildings go up
and standard methods of earthquake proofing are not apparent or observable. Are these buildings just packs of cards?
Techniques for achieving earthquake-proof buildings include:
- base isolation
- diagonal bracing
- passive damping.
These techniques were not observable in the multitude of buildings I saw in course of construction.
There are three forms of vertical strengthening -
- Isolating the base from the moving ground involves using teflon pads, springs or large rollers so that the full ground movement and energy is not transmitted to the building.
- Cross bracing using diagonal structural members helps a building to resist shear forces (lateral forces) whilst
- passive damping requires the incorporation of energy absorbing components which deform without breaking.
None of these were seen. The Egyptian design might be intended to be a moment-resisting-frame where, provided the columns are flexible and the joints with the floors are rigid, the structure could absorb quake energy. However, the un-tied brick infill panels would collapse without doubt and provide significant hazard to those below. The safety of the frames in these circumstances depends crucially upon the ability of the columns to absorb energy without fracture and upon resulting resonant frequency implications. Bristol University in England has an excellent Earthquake Resistant website and shows an example of a collapsed earthquake damaged building in Turkey which appears to have been designed in a similar manner to the buildings photographed in Egypt where the bottom two or three stories had collapsed. The structural columns show no diminution of scale at the top to reduce weight of the upper parts and increase of scale at the bottom to provide extra load bearing strength. Egypt could usefully learn from the Indian experience after Gujurat and the Indian application of earthquake resistance techniques to buildings.
- braced frames using rigid single diagonals (structural members) or non-rigid cross bracing (steel cables with dampers) -
- moment resisting frames and
- shear walls. Shear walls are solid walls without openings extending the height of the building and provide rigidity in both lateral directions.
At the edge of the African plate and through Sinai, Egypt abuts the edge of the Asian plate and the Rift Valley, the Red Sea providing the hinge points between the two. It is likely that the legendary withdrawal of water from the Red Sea which allowed the Isrealites to escape only for the Egyptians to be drowned by the returning water was an earthquake Tsunami effect. The Sinai peninsular and the Hurghada coast are being developed for tourism and are in a risk zone as is Cairo. Anyone wanting to buy or invest in property, holiday villas or apartments for sale in Egypt would be well advised to take advice from reputable independant architects or structural engineers with established earthquake experience, research and observation of building survivals in quake zones. The plans of the building that you might purchase should be made available to the purchaser's structural expert together with a statement of what quake resistance technique has been incorporated and is being relied upon in the construction.
Egypt is not unique in earthquake vulnerability nor more vulnerable than many other favourite places around the Mediterranean. It is, however, subject to the most massive of current building programmes with design and construction which seems to be largely universal and ubiquitous. In view of the population expansion, such techniques must be seen to be sound to ensure that enormous human disasters are to be avoided. To many people, all that building standards mean is how smooth their plaster is and the standard of plumbing. News reports of the Cairo quake in 1992 mentioned that a 13 storey apartment building collapsed and over-all then only 340 people were killed and 4000 injured. Since then, the population densities have increased together with the numbers of multi-storey buildings. Building standards should be applied and where possible improvements made to existing inadequately protected buildings - and if people are buying a house, villa or apartment, they should pay attention to this more than just whether or not the water from the sink toddles across the floor on its way to the drain. It is so easy to get swept away by the salesman and the glossy brochure offering that tempting place in the sun to buy . . .
Even low buildings should be designed with vibration resistant principles in mind to avoid disasters such as on 26th January 2001 in Bhuj in Gujurat India and on 19th May 363 AD at Petra in Jordan.
These photos were taken with a Fuji Finepix S602 camera often from a vehicle moving at 50mph. Copyright David Pinnegar 2006. If you enjoy Landscape and Geography you might enjoy aerial views of France. The author is a tourist development and heritage preservation consultant