Modern design with panel siding.:  Houses by Linwood Green Homes

Brace yourself: Is your home earthquake-resistant?

Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada Sarah Tolle – Homify Canada

Request quote

Invalid number. Please check the country code, prefix and phone number
By clicking 'Send' I confirm I have read the Privacy Policy & agree that my foregoing information will be processed to answer my request.
Note: You can revoke your consent by emailing privacy@homify.com with effect for the future.
Loading admin actions …

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.

​Consider your location

Rockcliffe Park:  Houses by Flynn Architect
Flynn Architect

Rockcliffe Park

Flynn Architect

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.

​Consider the materials

Modern design with panel siding.:  Houses by Linwood Green Homes
Linwood Green Homes

Modern design with panel siding.

Linwood Green Homes

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. 

Wood is a safe choice

 Houses by Pracownia Projektowa ARCHIPELAG
Pracownia Projektowa ARCHIPELAG

DOM MARCEL G2 – przytulna nowoczesność w najlepszym wydaniu!

Pracownia Projektowa ARCHIPELAG

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.

​Is pre-fab safe?

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.

​The importance of a good foundation

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

Did you find our tips helpful? 
 Houses by Casas inHAUS

Need help with your home project? Get in touch!

Discover home inspiration!