Computer programs could help keep homes safe from natural disasters

    By Neville Miller

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A local professor is using science to make homes and buildings stand up to the worst natural disasters.

    "We're not necessarily trying to keep a building from being damaged completely, what we are trying to do is keep that damage to a minimum, so it also doesn't impact people," associate professor of Geology at the College of Charleston, Dr. Norman Levine said.

    Levine is working on improving the ability for computers to predict how structures would be damaged from an earthquake. He says a major earthquake isn't likely anytime soon, but a small or medium magnitude quake can occur at anytime.

    "Statistically we don't expect one of those (major quakes) for another couple of hundred years, but we do expect something smaller to happen," Levine said.

    He also says that some parts of the Lowcountry are more at risk for damage from a tremor.

    "Where we put fill-in and turned the marsh into places where we now have houses, those areas will more than likely feel more shaking than what we call the spine of the Charleston Peninsula," Levine said.

    Tom Scholtens is the chief building official with the City of Charleston and he has the job of making sure that residential and commercial buildings in Charleston are built to handle some of Mother Nature's worst.

    "The new seismic loads and the wind loads that we experienced through the Charleston Earthquake and Hurricane Hugo, both of those are the designed requirements the codes use," Scholtens said.

    Scholtens says that historic structures were considered to be compliant when they were built, which means that even though building codes have changed, those structures are still considered safe.

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