Better building codes planned for schools

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-06 07:46

Public buildings such as schools and hospitals will be constructed to higher earthquake-resistance standards, a senior construction official said Thursday.

"We've started research and will draft detailed quake-resistance codes for such buildings," Qi Ji, vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development, told a news briefing organized by the State Council Information Office.

He said the codes will be based on geographic analysis from the State Seismological Bureau and scientific construction methods.

Although Qi admitted that tougher building standards should be used in reconstruction, he disputed the assertion that a disproportionate number of schools had collapsed, saying "other public buildings and homes had also collapsed".

Many people, especially aggrieved parents who lost their children in the quake, have questioned the quality of school buildings as many of them collapsed in the quake, killing thousands. They are also calling for an increase in the quake-resistance level of these public structures.

Experts, however, say that standards are one thing, and implementation is another.

"The quake-resistance level for Wenchuan's buildings is rated Degree 7, but based on what I've seen on-site, the buildings are far from this level," a professor at the Beijing Construction and Engineering Research Institute, Liu Hang, said.

"The key is implementation."

At yesterday's briefing, Qi also said that authorities are focusing on the goal of producing 1 million prefabricated temporary housing units within three months, a task that would require a "round the clock" effort.

Latest official figures show that the 26,730 makeshift shelters had been set up by Wednesday, and another 14,353 are being erected. A further 68,448 are waiting to be assembled in the disaster-hit areas.

Qi said with nationwide assistance, the country can now produce about 15,000 to 18,000 makeshift housing units every day, but assembly speed is only 5,000 a day.

"We'll try our best to make the assembly speed match production," he said.

Qi acknowledged that because of the huge demand for makeshift houses, there was a shortage of some raw materials such as color coated steel sheets and Polystyrene.

To ease the shortage, Qi said his ministry and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission had jointly issued an emergency notice, requiring some big State-owned companies to work around the clock to produce the materials in short supply.

He said the temporary houses could be used for three to five years, and the central budget will cover most of the expenditure of the 1 million housing units, while donations will pay for about 10 percent.

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