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Guiding lights


UK BASED engineers Dinesh Patel, Khimji Pindoria and Devraj Patel were spurred into action when their ancestral home, Gujarat, was reduced to rubble.

Almost exactly one year on, they have written and promoted an earthquake engineering guide for local engineers and builders and last week they took to the stage in Bhuj city to lecture on repair techniques to 700 field engineers.

'These are the people who will be supervising retrofitting of buildings and they will get most use out of this guide, ' said Dinesh Patel, an associate at Arup Geotechnics. 'It is made up of simple earthquake engineering techniques and it shouldn't take too long to train people.'

The team members, who all have close family ties in villages near to Bhuj, are in Gujarat to explain their guide to engineers working under the Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (GSDMA). The Repair and Strengthening Guide for Earthquake Damaged Low Rise Domestic Building in Gujarat was enthusiastically embraced by the GSDMA and the team was feted on arrival in the state capital of Gandinagar. A lecture to 60 engineers included 40 chief engineers from all over the region.

The GSDMA has produced its own repair and reconstruction guides and recently organised a workshop of international experts whose work will be written up into a compendium to be distributed throughout the region. But Dinesh Patel and his team have still managed to carve out a niche for their guide produced over many months of their own time after the quake struck last January.

'Our guide focuses on repair and strengthening of rubble masonry, cut stone, reinforced concrete and low rise domestic buildings, ' says Dinesh Patel, who visited Bhuj shortly after the quake as part of the UK's Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) mission.

The guide was produced with with inside knowledge of Gujarati building styles and ground conditions. This also informed the diagrams produced for the document. It gives advice on column jacketing techniques, ties for beams and columns and infill panels between columns for adding shear strength.

Devraj Patel explains how Gujarat style building needs to change. 'People like big windows here because of the heat in the summer but they need to keep them small and away from corners of the building. Cantilevers are used more in India than anywhere else. They love balconies here but they are dangerous. We need to make sure they are anchored back well into the slab.'

Dinesh Patel says the reconstruction he and his colleagues have observed is of mixed quality. This includes examples where concrete sills have been installed under windows when ring beams going around the building should have been put in, or column jackets that do not extend into the foundation of the building or are not tied to the beam above.

But things are moving in the right direction.

'We are encouraged by what is happening. The use of lintel and sill bands in so many buildings shows an immense improvement, ' says Khimji Pindoria who runs his own consultancy Pindoria Associates.

Many reconstructed homes are poorly built on the ground floor then show evidence of earthquake engineering techniques on the upper floor, they say, showing the message has been getting through, albeit a bit late.

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