Icelandic houses stand up well to earthquakes

03.08.2022 - 09:51
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 Mynd: RÚV - Vilhjálmur Þór Guðmun - RÚV
Houses in Iceland are designed to withstand the largest earthquakes in the country. A structural engineer from Efla says there is a much greater risk of damage from falling or toppling objects than from a building collapse.

Since Saturday, the swarm of earthquakes that has been going on in the Reykjanes peninsula is likely to cause much concern. Bjarni Jón Pálsson, a structural engineer at Efla, says there is no reason to fear that Icelandic houses will not withstand the strain. "We don't expect any buildings to collapse," he says.

Bjarni says the country is divided into areas, and buildings are designed to withstand even bigger earthquakes than expected in a given area. All kinds of calculations are made for each project. "In buildings, the most important things are the iron reinforcements in the walls. They are placed in the right places, and each building has the right amount of walls. The tall houses swing and thus unload the movements created in an earthquake, while the low houses hold rather rigidly, simply dancing with the earth."

Bjarni says that older houses in Iceland have also been studied and found to have excellent bearing capacity and tolerate earthquakes well.

In the capital area, buildings are being built that can withstand earthquakes above six degrees,  while in southern Iceland and around Húsavík, even bigger quakes can be expected. In other countries, houses aren´t built to withstand the earthquakes we are experiencing in the current swarm. Still, Bjarni reiterates that there is no reason to worry about houses here in Iceland. 

"There is a greater risk of loose furniture and objects falling and toppling over. We always admonish people to worry the most about this and to prepare their homes."

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