Building experts warn new law “forgets” anti-earthquake specs

“It’s an accident waiting to happen” – this is what construction experts think of the government’s new urban rehabilitation programme, designed to stimulate the building industry and encourage more people to recuperate old properties.
They claim it as a “cosmetic” operation that flies in the face of anti-earthquake specifications.
“The new programme pays no heed to the safety of old buildings,” university professor Carlos Oliveira of the Superior Technical Institute told Correio da Manhã last week. “Many have already fallen down. Imagine if this had happened with people living inside.”
“The state is defining principles that pay no heed to the safety of people or property,” said Carlos Matias Ramos of the Order of Engineers.
Affirming that “people’s lives are at risk”, he told the newspaper that the new programme incorporates measures for “comfort and energy sustainability but forgets security”.
“In an earthquake, what is the use of comfort and energy sustainability?” he queries.
The Portuguese society for seismic engineering is also against the new regime. “What it entails is a simple cosmetic operation for buildings over 30 years old,” president Aníbal Costa told the paper. “It does not define clear regulations for the rehabilitation of buildings. The new law leaves the issue of safety up to the individual.”
The law currently awaits rubber-stamping by President Cavaco Silva.
Experts clamouring against it reveal the Ministry of the Environment should have consulted them before drawing it up.
If occupation of these old buildings is sanctioned, Carlos Oliveira warns: “We will be increasing risks and elevating the number of deaths in the case of earthquakes.”
But the environment ministry remains unimpressed. A spokesman claimed the new regime “does not dispense with any rules regarding the prevention of earthquake risk”, stressing that it reduces rehabilitation costs by as much as 40%.