State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Blog 3

Strict Building Codes Saved Lives in Japan Quake, say World Press Reports

Loss of life in some other disasters was aggravated not only by poverty but, critics say, by circumvention of building codes and bribes to inspectors


While substandard materials, lax enforcement, and construction shortcuts have been cited as factors that caused needless loss of life in recent earthquake disasters in China and Haiti, global press reports indicate that Japan’s strict adherence to building codes mitigated casualties in the colossal quake and tsunami that struck the nation last week.

Losses could have been far worse, reports the Week, were it not for rigorous building codes.

Skyscrapers were built to sway, rather than collapse, when the ground shakes, report New York Magazine and insurance industry trade journal InsuranceTech.

The London Telegraph’s East Asia correspondent Peter Foster writes: “Many lessons were learned from the Kobe earthquake of 1995 that killed 6,400 people and forced a reassessment of the building regulations for both residential offices and transport infrastructure.”

Loss of life from previous earthquakes in China and Haiti were compounded by the fact that in addition to the monetary challenges faced by developing nations, corruption led to lax enforcement of building codes.

As reported in Ethics Newsline in January 2010, a BBC report concluded that the Haitian government not only failed to enforce building codes but virtually ceased to function at all in some parts of the nation. Concrete was also frequently watered down, according to the BBC.

In 2008, thousands of students died when schools across China collapsed even though many other buildings remained standing. Protestors charged that the collapses were caused in part by shoddy construction of the schools enabled by inspectors who had taken bribes.


The strict building codes are a necessity  in Japan because of their location.  It is very important that buildings are designed for the conditions each area goes through.  Just like each state in the United States has its own regulations for building, each area of the world should too so that the buildings can withhold the conditions they are put through. If you prepare for the worse then many peoples lives can be saved.

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