Architects offer solutions for disasters

business August 19, 2012 00:00

By Somluck Srimalee
The Nation

4,928 Viewed

New buildings must take into account future possibility of floods and earthquakes, say experts


Many households have to regularly face floods, while some in earthquake-prone areas have to worry about cracks. As natural disasters strike Thailand more often, a change in residential designs are necessary, experts said.
At a seminar on “Influence 2012: Flood Fight Design and Planning” organised last week by Siam City Cement, experts shared the view that residential designs must be adapted to take into account likely natural disasters like floods and earthquake.
Assoc Professor Dr Seree Supratid, director of the Climate Change and Disaster Centre of Rangsit University, said that after floods hit central Thailand last year, most people are haunted by that painful experience despite the government’s massive Bt350-billion budget to manage the country’s water system.
“The government’s policy to allocate Bt350 billion is focused on managing the country’s water system. But in the future, we cannot predict whether the problem will be the same or more severe. As a result the government has to integrate the country’s knowledge about the impact of climate change. This will help the government launch policies that can prepare for the future," he said.
He added that climate change will impact people’s lifestyle, and residential places will have to be prepared for the impact of natural disasters. 
Flood-proof residences
Professor Dr Bandit Chulasai, lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture at Chulalongkorn University, said that residential development in Thailand has to be redesigned to suit both a normal situation and natural disasters. 
For example, for flood-prone areas, residential development must be designed to serve people who have to endure floods.
Bandit said the Faculty of Architecture of Chulalongkorn University had joined hands with Siam City Cement to complete a 22-unit residential project at Klong Sai community of Maharat district in Ayutthaya province, which suffered dearly during last year’s floods. At the heart of the design is the question of how people can stay in their homes when there is a flood. 
The answer is to build houses that are three metres above the ground. All other essential systems such as drinking water drinking, toilet system, skywalk, and sky agriculture plants are also elevated. The elevated systems will allow people of the Klong Sai community to stay in their homes even if there are floods. 
Meanwhile, the houses are also equipped with double wall and double roof to reduce heat. This is to ensure that residents do not need air-conditioning or even electric fans. In normal time, this will reduce their electricity bills. The design is based on the bad experience of people who were struck in their houses without electricity.
“I believe that this design will suit all those who live in flood-prone areas,” he said.
Earthquake-proof structure
Assoc Professor Dr Amorn Pimanmas, director of the Engineering Institute of Thailand under HM The King’s Patronage, said that engineers need to apply technology in building homes to cope with natural disasters, especially earthquake, as Thailand is not 100 per cent safe from tremors.
While some of our neighbours face earthquakes, some areas of Thailand are also in risky areas. According to Building Act BE2007, buildings in the country must be able to withstand earthquake of a magnitude of 8. But most buildings in Thailand, built before 2007, were not required to meet that rule.
Amorn said he had seen damage suffered by old buildings, particularly ones with open first floors. This is risky as concrete is the first to go after an earthquake, and this could damage the entire building. It is thus necessary to protect the buildings which were built before 2007. 
To mitigate earthquake-related risks, a new innovative system is available. Carbon fibre can be wrapped around posts, to ensure that there are no concrete breaks after an earthquake. Without the cracks, the steel inside would remain safe and so would the entire building.
"Although earthquake is not common in Thailand like in some other countries in this region, we can’t say it won’t happen more often in the future. The best way to stay with the new environment is to design and equip your buildings for the unexpected," he said.