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Earthquake Resistant Homes

Turkey sits on the North Anatolian fault line, one of the world’s well-known earthquake zones. History shows that earthquakes have struck at random over the centuries with the last occurring in 1999 in the industrial town of Izmit, 100 km east of Istanbul. The net result of this devastating quake , which measured 7.4 on the Richter scale and lasted for a mere 45 seconds was that 17,000 people were killed – unofficial estimates put the number closer to 35,000 and 300,000 were left homeless. As a result the Turkish government put a series of measures into place to ensure that as many homes as possible would from then on in be earthquake resistant.

Earthquake Construction Legislation

Today every home built must be built to the new earthquake proof standards and must be certified as being so. Any property that does not have this certificate cannot be classed as resistant and if it was built after the legislation was introduced in 1999, it is in breach of construction laws. Everyone related to the construction industry is more than familiar with the techniques for constructing earthquake-resistant buildings; Otkay Ekinci, a former Chairman of the Turkish Architects’ Chamber, once told the Financial Times, "We know how to build earthquake resistant houses. This is the first thing they teach us at university. We have first rate experts in every field related to construction." The new law also dictates that buildings under construction must be inspected by the authorities to make sure that regulations are adhered to.

Earthquake Proofing

Buildings must be reinforced with steel rods to stop them from falling apart in an earthquake and the reinforced concrete to secure them must be of a certain mix with less sand and more cement in the mix. They can also be earthquake proofed retrospectively so if you intend on buying and older property you should set aside money to do this. If you are renovating an old stone property you will have to ensure that your builder takes the necessary steps to qualify for a ‘Habitation Certificate’ known as a ‘Oturma Izni’ or a ‘Ruhsati’ in Turkish.

One style of building that is world renowned for holding up well during a quake and is used a lot in earthquake areas in America is a light-weight pre-fabricated building, which is bolted onto a pre-cast concrete base. The greatest advantage of this style of housing is that it is made of lightweight steel, which is resistant to seismic movements. Additionally they are quick and easy to erect and look no different to a regular brick construction once finished. They can be constructed in a wide variety of designs and individually tailor made, more to the point they are available in Turkey. The prefabricated building is constructed in a factory and transported to the site via truck, then lifted into place by a crane. Better still such houses can be constructed with or without the electrical and sanitary fittings. Prefabricated houses have become so popular that they are encouraged by the Turkish government as a solution to earthquake protection and are exported around the world. They fit any climate and more importantly they are approved for first degree seismic zones. Whatever construction you choose you must ensure that your chimney is completely attached to the main structure as they are particularly vulnerable during earthquakes.

Compulsory Insurance

One of the most vital pieces of legislation introduced post 1999 is the compulsory purchase of earthquake insurance. The idea is that in the unfortunate event of another quake, property owners will be adequately compensated for the material loss or damage to their homes caused by earthquake. The law applies to apartment owners and villa owners alike. For apartment owners the law means that rebuilding costs are covered by each individual owner via their insurance policy. Anyone without insurance faces fines and possible legal action. Apartment owners must also give access to their property if any work needs to be done throughout the building. The new law ensures that existing buildings can be made safer in a fair way without one or two owners having to carry the bulk of the financial burden alone.

Assessing the Risks

Prior to the 1999 earthquake the last major quake occurred in 1953 and before this in 1939. The effects of earthquakes may be devastating but it is worth noting that they do not take place every decade and despite their occurrence many old historic buildings and monuments are still standing even in the towns and cities most severely affected. By complying with earthquake laws in terms of building seismically safe property and purchasing the compulsory earthquake insurance you are ensuring that the affects of future quakes are much less devastating. Properties which do not comply with the new building legislation are often offered at much lower prices, but before you purchase one get an architect and surveyor to advise you as to how you can bring the building up to the required standards.

The chance of an earthquake damaging your Turkish property is still very small and not a reason that should stand in the way of you purchasing a home in Turkey. Think of it this way; most Hollywood stars also live on the famed San Andreas fault line and it certainly doesn’t deter them from making their homes in San Francisco or Los Angeles.


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