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School Earthquake Safety in Rural Peru

Villagers helped masons to seismically retrofit the local adobe school. In the process, they learned why and how to build in ways that resist earthquake damage.


Chocos residents learn techniques for making improved adobe bricks during one of the project’s training sessions. (Credit: David Hermoza.)


Each day, Peruvian children across the South American country attend schools vulnerable to collapse during earthquakes. Over the past 50 years, significant school damage has been recorded in at least seven earthquakes in Peru, especially in poorer communities. These earthquakes have resulted in major changes to the country’s building code and better design and construction of new structures. While these measures are essential, they are not sufficient. Unfortunately, school buildings built before 1997, not to mention schools that are built disregarding the building code, remain vulnerable to earthquake shaking. Many parents – often lacking the awareness, resources and expertise to adequately improve the safety of the buildings and their children – continue to send their children to such schools. 



GHI’s project in Peru, in partnership with Stanford University, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and the Peruvian nonprofit Estratagia, aims to raise awareness of earthquake risk and develop a school retrofit plan that could be replicated locally. GHI and its project partners will retrofit a primary school in the village of Chocos in order to protect the building and the children and teachers within it when the next earthquake inevitably comes. The school building in Chocos is indicative of vulnerable schools throughout rural Peru. They are often made of adobe, a construction type known for undergoing sudden and catastrophic collapse in earthquakes. During the project teachers in Chocos will be trained to explain earthquake risk and preparedness techniques to students and the wider community, and local builders will be taught earthquake-resistant construction techniques. The project emphasizes sustainability through local collaboration, training, and awareness-raising. The retrofit plan will be designed to be locally appropriate and as cost-effective as possible. GHI’s hope is that this project will encourage Chocos residents to start demanding earthquake-resistant construction in all types of buildings. The project is made possible by the generosity of the Swiss Reinsurance Company, Thornton Tomasetti Foundation, and GHI’s Ohya Memorial Fund, which was created in memory of Mr. Satoru Ohya, a generous donor to GHI and a founding member of GHI’s Board of Trustees. 


  • Increased awareness of earthquake risks and personal preparedness measures among students, school staff and the surrounding community 

  • Trained builders in earthquake-resistant construction and retrofitting techniques 

  • A strengthened and safer school Greater demand for earthquake-resistant construction in all types of buildings

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