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Seismic Resilience Evaluations

This program developed practice in Bhutan to identify the structural vulnerabilities of local buildings before an earthquake occurs, which can inform risk mitigation, and developed detailed guidance for life-safety evaluations of local buildings after an earthquake, which can help the country manage efficient recovery.


Trainees discuss the unanchored emergency generator at Tashigang District Hospital, Bhutan, during a GHI course on hospital vulnerability assessment.

With engineers from Bhutan and the US, we developed seismic vulnerability checklists for health clinics and school buildings, and we trained more than 80 engineers to make assessments with the checklists. Bhutan's Ministry of Education then began a nationwide program to evaluate earthquake vulnerability of its schools. This data will be used to prioritize improvements in schools most at risk, to avoid losses in a future earthquake.

When a major earthquake damages thousands of buildings, it is important for a speedy recovery to determine which buildings are safe. Can people use their homes? Can the hospital stay open if it needs repair? Can schools function? Our team worked with Bhutan’s Departments of Disaster Management and Engineering Services and the Applied Technology Council (ATC) to adapt for Bhutan’s context the ATC-20-1 Field Manual: Postearthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings.

ATC’s rigorous process is the only standard used in the U.S. and has been applied to evaluate building safety after every significant earthquake since 1989. Bhutan’s manual is the first adaptation of ATC-20-1 with ATC’s consent and full participation. Using this tool, trained engineers will know what to look for as they evaluate which buildings might suffer additional, life-threatening damage in an aftershock as intense as the mainshock.


The majority of buildings in Bhutan are traditional rammed earth, stone masonry, and adobe construction. Some have vernacular timber-based systems. Damage from moderate earthquakes in 2009 and 2011 indicates that stronger shaking will cause significant damage. In the adapted field manual, our team added several new chapters to cover buildings found in Bhutan but not in the U.S. A panel of Bhutan and U.S. engineers provided extensive input and field research.

Engineers may assess thousands of buildings in the critical first week after an earthquake. They will check roof and floor framing, columns, walls, diaphragms, and foundations. Use of the field manual will support consistent evaluations. Though specific to Bhutan, it provides an excellent model for postearthquake safety evaluations in nations with similar building types.

The World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) provided funding for these efforts. The ATC Endowment Fund contributed funding for adaptation of the ATC-20-1 field manual for Bhutan.


ATC-20-1 Bhutan Field Manual: Postearthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings may be purchased through Applied Technology Council

Is an earthquake damaged building safe to use

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