Central Mexico Earthquake Reconnaissance – Day 4

Day 4. It’s the end of our “work day.” Standing in the middle of a covered basketball court while rain pours and lightning strikes around us, I’ll reflect on the day that has just passed.

Casa del Arquitecto in Mexico City.

At our team breakfast meeting, we discussed the events planned for the day. Each day so far has been different (check out the recent blog posts from the other team members for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3). After our meal, we made our way to Casa del Arquitecto, which is Mexico’s equivalent to the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Due to the recent seismic events, street closures forced us to go through some back alleys, which gave me some insight into how people’s lives have been affected. We arrived at our destination and noticed a long line of volunteer architects and architectural students eager to help with safety evaluations of damaged buildings. Along with the students present, the line included volunteers to train others on performing building safety evaluations. It was comforting to know that there are so many individuals who are willing to give their time to help with the recovery effort.

As we waited for a bus to pick us and the other volunteers up, Fernando, an urbanist (planner), gave a brief explanation of what would happen once we arrived on site. He also gave out his contact information and asked the whole group to send him photos of any observed earthquake damage. Our Team had the opportunity to talk with one of the student volunteers who mentioned that he and his friends have been there for four days and will continue until they are no longer needed. It was a heartwarming experience to be part of so many volunteers.

Mexico Recon Team 1 assessing a building and discussing the condition with the owner.
Typical building.

After a long bus ride, we arrived at the site in Iztapalapa, one of the 16 boroughs in the Federal District of Mexico City. The area where we completed the building safety evaluations was a dense residential zone with houses built next to each other with no setbacks. Groups of three were sent out with a local guide to assess the multi-story confined masonry residential buildings for owners who had requested a safety evaluation. The structures observed were single-family dwelling units, mostly built in the 1970’s, which were two stories at most and typically consisted of confined masonry brick and block construction.

David Gonzalez,PE,SE (left) and Dave Swanson, PE, SE (right) discuss a leaning building caused by ground settlement.

The types of earthquake damage noticed were, for the most part, wall cracks likely due to the ground settlement combined with earthquake loading. We also noticed a building leaning from apparent ground settlement. Measurements suggested that it was leaning about 1 to 2 degrees out-of-plumb.

By the end of the work period, our team was able to provide safety evaluations for 12 structures. Considering that we were two teams out of a group of approximately a dozen teams, it is likely that 60 to 80 buildings were evaluated by this effort – a productive day. The look of relief on the faces of the homeowners at the end of each assessment was apparent; through our safety evaluations, we were able to impart some knowledge about the seismic safety of their homes. It is a deeply satisfying and uplifting experience to provide comfort to those distressed from the powerful earthquake.

A late meeting closed our fourth day in Mexico City. As we discussed our upcoming plans, I started to feel the weight of the day. Tired and worn, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

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Stay tuned for daily updates from our team… and if you have questions about our efforts, please comment below and we will respond with an answer.

Earthquake Reconnaissance – Day 5

Earthquake Reconnaissance – Day 3