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Cost-Benefit Analysis of Earthquake
Provisions in Building Codes: Erdem Karaca
Project Title: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Earthquake Provisions in Building Codes
Mendenhall Fellow: Erdem Karaca, (303) 273-8465,
Duty Station: Golden, CO
Start Date: June, 2005
Education: Ph.D. Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2005
Research Advisor: Edgar Leyendecker, (303) 273-8565,; Art Frankel, (303) 273-8556,; Nicolas Luco, (303) 273-8683,

Project Description: One of the principal uses of the USGS national seismic hazard maps (Frankel and others, 2000; 2002) is for earthquake provisions in the International Building Code (IBC) (ICC, 2003). While the IBC has been adopted in many jurisdictions in different states to date, there is some resistance to its adoption in the central U.S. This is largely due to the fact that the 500-year recurrence time of large earthquakes in the central U.S. has lead to a faulty perception that the risk is low. There is also a concern about the cost of implementing the new provisions, compared to the benefits in terms of loss reduction. Therefore, the lack of a cost-benefit analysis of the seismic provisions in the IBC is one of the obstacles towards the full adoption of products based on the USGS national seismic hazard maps.

USGS Earthquake Hazard Map for the United States showing earthquake ground
      accelerations (horizontal) having a 10% probability of being exceeded in
      the next 50 years for a firm rock site condition.   USGS earthquake hazard map for the United States showing earthquake ground accelerations (horizontal) having a 10% probability of being exceeded in the next 50 years for a firm rock site condition.

The main objective of this research is to perform a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the benefits of adopting the IBC throughout the nation in mitigation of earthquake losses versus the costs of implementing the IBC. The seismic hazard throughout the nation will be defined by the USGS national seismic hazard maps. A modified version of the loss estimation methodology of HAZUS (Whitman and others, 1997) together with other improved loss methodologies and fragility relations will be used to assess expected annualized losses of property and lives from earthquakes, first for buildings designed according to existing building codes, and then for those designed according to IBC. The reduction in annualized losses will then be compared with the costs of adopting IBC. The study will also provide the means to compare the cost-effectiveness of seismic mitigation in regions observing earthquakes with short recurrence times but has a robust infrastructure (e.g. California) and regions observing earthquakes with long recurrence times but has a fragile infrastructure (e.g. Central and Eastern US). Such information can be used in many public policy and decision making issues such as making refinements to seismic building codes, mitigation planning, determination of insurance rates, and definition of local zoning requirements.

ICC, 2003, International Building Code, International Code Council, Inc., Falls Church, Va.

Frankel, A.D., Mueller, C.S., Barnhard, T.P., Leyendecker, E.V., Wesson, R.L., Harmsen, S.C., Klein, F.W., Perkins, D.M., Dickman, N.C., Hanson, S.L., and Hopper, M.G., 2000, USGS National Seismic Hazard Maps: Earthquake Spectra, 16(1), p. 1-19.

Frankel, A.D., Petersen, M.D., Mueller, C.S., Haller, K.M., Wheeler, R.L., Leyendecker, E. V., Wesson, R.L., Harmsen, S.C., Cramer, C.H., Perkins, D.M., and Rukstales, K.S., 2002, Documentation for the 2002 Update of the National Seismic Hazard Maps: U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 02-420.

Whitman, R.V., Anagnos, T., Kircher, C.A., Lagorio, H.J., Lawson, R.S., and Schneider, P., 1997, Development of a National Earthquake Loss Estimation Methodology: Earthquake Spectra, 13(4), p. 643-661.

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Last modified: 16:08:29 Thu 13 Dec 2012