Experts warned against unlicensed strengthening works for buildings

Experts warned against unlicensed strengthening works for buildings

Gülistan Alagöz - ISTANBUL
Experts warned against unlicensed strengthening works for buildings

The demand for risk assessment and strengthening of buildings have increased since Feb. 6’s major earthquakes.

Seeing the demand, opportunists did not sit idly by and unlicensed companies are testing buildings, and those interested in the transport and real estate business say they can do strengthening and retrofitting works.

Experts warn that retrofitting cannot be done without preparing a proper project and obtaining a license and the work not carried out by a competent engineer may cause more damage to buildings.

The signs on a small shop in Istanbul say they do transport jobs, construction in exchange for flats, real estate purchase and reinforcement. And it is not the only such shop.

It seems that those who have taken advantage of the increased demand after the great earthquake disaster have rolled up their sleeves.

When called as a potential customer, the shop’s owner said he would come and inspect the building and make an offer, that he could retrofit the basement without a license and that he would guarantee that the building would not collapse.

Sinan Türkkan, president of the Earthquake Retrofitting Association (DEGÜDER), said there are such companies in many provinces, especially in Istanbul, and their number has increased recently.

“Not every building can be retrofitted, and not everyone can do it,” he said.

“First of all, authorized companies will make tests, then a reinforcement project should be prepared and a license obtained. There are companies that say retrofitting is needed just by looking at the building, and those who do inspections by damaging the building’s statics.”

Türkkan said the citizens should check out the member companies of the Chamber of Engineers and ask about their previous projects.

“Unlicensed works may cause more serious damage to the building,” he said. “Such services should not be obtained from a random place with panic and fear.”

Türkkan said that they have received many complaints in the last few days and explained that a new and fabricated report called “Sturdiness Report” has appeared.

“They look at the building and say ‘it is strong, it can withstand 8 to 9 magnitude earthquakes,’ giving a one-page report,” he said.

“There is no such report, our people should not rely on them. There are two types of reports, ‘risk assessment’ and ‘seismic performance analysis.’ Risk assessment is done by institutions licensed by the Urban Transformation Ministry, and the other is done by engineering firms to find out the safety of the structure. In risk assessment, the result is risky or not risky. In terms of seismic performance, the report says if the building complies with seismic regulations or not. Today, journeymen working in retrofitting print business cards as earthquake experts. The electrician in the neighborhood takes the core out of the building. Urgent measures should be taken.”

Prof. Hasan Yıldırım of Istanbul Technical University’s (İTÜ) Faculty of Civil Engineering, said that the first step in strengthening is testing, and that retrofitting is decided after analysis, which must be carried out by authorized and experienced institutions.

Yıldırım explained that retrofitting can only be done by engineers, and that the strengthening done with engineering services will be as strong as the construction of a new building.

“Wrapping a few columns and covering cracks with plaster is not retrofitting,” he said.

“If anything, it would be an improvement that is useless against earthquakes. Homeowners who want to retrofit should look at the history of the companies. If they wish, they can also ask for a university inspection. The university examines the project and supervises the procedures.”

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