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Schools Seismic Retrofit Designs for Quito

Created seismic retrofit designs for typical building types using local materials and construction techniques, and strengthened representative schools.


Location: Quito, Ecuador 

Time frame: 1995 


An earthquake risk assessment for Quito, the capital of Ecuador, concluded that many of its public schools were vulnerable to collapse during major earthquakes. That assessment was announced in May of 1994 by a team of Ecuadorian and international scientists and engineers. The team recommended that Quito’s public school buildings be evaluated and that vulnerable schools be strengthened. 

GHI’s Response 

We launched the Quito School Earthquake Safety Project in December of 1994. Its Policy Advisory Committee was made up of local government officials responsible for school construction. Its Technical Advisory Committee was made up of non-Ecuadorians with experience in school safety or retrofit procedures. We worked with Ecuador’s National Polytechnic School and the University of British Columbia to define three objectives: 

  • Evaluate the vulnerability of Quito’s public schools to earthquake damage; 

  • Design affordable means to strengthen a representative sample of vulnerable schools; 

  • and Strengthen the building construction of that representative sample of schools.


Fifteen high-risk school buildings were chosen by selecting Quito’s high-use schools, classifying them by building construction material, and determining the most vulnerable school buildings within each group. Retrofit designs were created for each of the high-risk school buildings and for two types of high-risk school modules found throughout Ecuador. These retrofit designs were affordable and used local building materials and local construction techniques. 


  • School Retrofits – Significant progress was rapidly made in strengthening Quito’s high-risk schools, including securing funding commitments to retrofit 10 of the project’s school buildings. 

  • New School Models Designed – USAID Ecuador agreed to sponsor the design of new, earthquake-resistant school modules for the National Directorate for School Construction. These designs will be used for school building construction throughout Ecuador. 

  • School Safety Measures – The project demonstrated how to identify and strengthen the remainder of Quito’s vulnerable schools. Potentially vulnerable schools can readily be identified by experienced engineers using the methods employed in this project. 

  • Funding Generated – The most significant finding of the project was that the relatively inexpensive process of identifying high-risk schools and designing their retrofits generated sufficient local funding to pay for retrofit construction. 

Major funding was provided by OYO Corporation and the Cecil and Ida Green Foundation


Full Report – English version
Full Report – Spanish version

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