An engineer checked for damage done to the Washington Monument, a 555-foot obelisk located on the national mall in Washington, D.C., by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011. The monument underwent repairs and was reopened May 12, 2014.

Executive Order Covers Earthquake Resilience for Federal Buildings

The president's order followed a "Building for Earthquake Safety" session at the White House Earthquake Resilience Summit.

An executive order issued by President Obama last week, prior to the start of the White House Earthquake Resilience Summit, sets a federal earthquake risk standard that calls for new, leased, and regulated federal buildings to meet seismic safety provisions outlined in the International Building Code and the International Residential Code, both of which are products of the International Code Council (ICC).

The order specifies that agencies that design or construct a new building for federal occupancy, as well as those altering such a building or leasing one, ensure that the structures designed and built in accordance with the earthquake-resistant design and construction standards in the codes. When the ICC releases a new version of either code, each agency that constructs buildings shall determine whether the new version is a nationally recognized code within two years and, if so, must ensure that any new building complies with the new version or an equivalent code.

In addition, agencies that own an existing federal building are directed to adopt the Standards of Seismic Safety for Existing Federally Owned and Leased Buildings, which are issued by the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction, for which NIST is the lead, as the minimum level acceptable for managing the earthquake risks in that building. Agencies may require higher performance levels than exist in the codes and standards, according to the text of the order.

"There is no more important contributor to reducing communities' risks from earthquakes than the adoption and application of modern building codes and standards," said ICC Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO, who was a panelist at the earthquake summit in Washington, D.C. "To survive and remain resilient and to assure the rapid recovery of local economies, communities must employ the most up-to-date code provisions. This executive order ensures that federal facilities and their occupants will be safe when the next earthquake strikes."

Participants in the "Building for Earthquake Safety" session at the summit included Judge Alice Hill with the National Security Council; National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Willie May; Sims; and Dr. Lucy Jones with the U.S. Geological Survey. Summit participants included Code Council Board of Directors President Alex Olszowy, III and White House National Security Council Director of Hazard Mitigation & Risk Reduction Policy Eric Letvi.

"This is a significant day for building safety professionals and the construction industry as a whole," said Olszowy, of the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government in Lexington, Ky. "When code officials, designers, manufacturers, and contractors work together, along with government leaders, researchers, and academia, we enhance our goal of creating a safer built environment. The beneficiaries, of course, are the people who occupy the structures where they live, work, worship, go to school, and play."

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