There have been several devastating earthquakes around the world in recent years that have generated numerous inquiries with regard to Canadian building codes, namely: are Canadian buildings being properly designed to withstand an earthquake? There's no simple answer to this question, as the requirements for a particular building depend on a complex interplay involving the building type, location, and materials, as well as the earthquake's magnitude and location. Here's some basic information for you to education yourself about earthquake resistant buildings and safety codes.
The risk of a high magnitude Earthquake varies significantly across Canada. in Montreal, for example, the probability of a high magnitude earthquake (measuring 7.5 or above) is small, and high-rise buildings are built to withstand quakes up to 7.0 that occur at least 30 km away. In Vancouver, however, the story is different: Vancouver lies in an active earthquake region and experiences shaking from three different sources (North American plate, Juan de Fuca plate, and Cascadia subduction zone), one of which can result in magnitude 9 earthquakes. Luckily, these generally occur off the coast of Vancouver Island and their strength is diminished by the 140 km that they must travel before reaching the city of Vancouver. Therefore, buildings in Vancouver are being built to withstand earthquakes measuring a magnitude of 7 that are at least 50 km away.
Will a wood-frame home keep you safe in the event of an Earthquake? That's a question that has received a lot of attention from scientists and architects throughout the world, who continue to research the behavior of wood buildings in the case of an earthquake in order to evolve their design standards and building codes.
Of course, an old home with an unstable foundation located in an active earthquake zone would be considered unsafe regardless of its materials, but research on the seismic resistance of wood-frame structures continues to show that wood is not only an eco-friendly building choice, but an earthquake resistant one as well. You don't need a steel frame to withstand an earthquake – a wood frame will do as long as it is properly bolted to its foundation, and as long as other stabilizing factors are considered. This is where specific wood design standards and seismic standards come into play. For example, a building with a large open hole on the ground floor (to accommodate a garage, for example) decreases the building's ability to safely withstand an earthquake.
Prefabricated homes sometimes get a bad rap. Although they are usually cheaper and faster to build than homes constructed onsite, don't necessarily offer less protection or stability when it comes to seismic safety. Theoretically, it shouldn't matter whether your living room was made in a factory or upon the cold hard ground. Like all newly built homes, prefab homes have to adhere to the same seismic standards.
When the earth shakes, the ground beneath your home will shake with it. If your home is not securely attached to its foundation, the foundation may shake away from the house structure – this is when the home is at risk of collapsing. However, if your home is securely fastened to its foundation, you run a lesser risk of collapse. As a rule of thumb, most homes built prior to 1980 are not bolted to their foundations (and keep in mind that there are also many post-1980 homes that are secured – but not properly – to their foundations). Depending on where you live, having a specialist evaluate your foundation and install bolts may be a wise investment. These service can cost between $3,000 and $6,000.
For more home improvement, see this garden ideabook: 19 garden ideas to keep your green thumbs busy