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11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

An overview of post-earthquake building inspection practices in

Greece and the introduction of a rapid building usability evaluation
procedure after the 1996 Konitsa earthquake
M. Dandoulaki, M. Panoutsopoulou & K. Ioannides
Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, Athens, Greece

Keywords: building inspection, usability evaluation, Greece, earthquake

ABSTRACT: Greece is acknowledged as the European country where the 50% of the seismic energy of Europe is released. Following any significant earthquake, the state, the prefectures and even
the municipalities in some cases, are faced with the task of inspecting large numbers of buildings
within the shaken area. This paper presents an overview of the post-earthquake building inspection
standards and practices in Greece during the last 20 years. It also examines the performance of a
first degree inspection procedure introduced by Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization
(EPPO) in the aftermath of the 1996 Konitsa (N. Greece) earthquake. Finally it presents the new
standard procedure for the rapid, post-earthquake usability assessment of buildings, which incorporates the experience from Konitsa earthquake.
Devastating earthquakes are not rare in Greece, therefore much experience on earthquake protection policies and practices has been accumulated. Before the 70s, it was the Ministry of Public
Works and the Ministry of Social Services that had the responsibility to plan and carry out state
intervention programs aiming in relief and reconstruction.
The whole approach to earthquake disaster response and reconstruction was drastically reviewed after the 1978 Thessaloniki earthquake. It was the first time that a modern urban center of
about 1,000,000 inhabitants at the time with many typical characteristics of the Greek urban environment (multistory apartment buildings, high population and building densities, mixed uses, traffic problems) experienced a disastrous earthquake.
After the earthquake, the panic, the lack of information and the uncountable calls for help and
building inspection, caused a chaotic situation that the existing Emergency Plans and the State apparatus were not prepared to respond to (Vafeiadis et al. 1994).
Regarding the building inspection procedure, there was not any kind of prior arrangements
made by the State authorities in order to deal with the overwhelming, urgent and pressing demands.
Inspection Forms were drafted, printed and distributed during the first days after the earthquake.
The buildings were inspected by two member teams of engineers in order to be classified in
three categories in regard to their damage and usability. They were posted respectively with green,
yellow or red color by colored self-adhesive tapes. A two degrees inspection procedure was set up,
the Second Degree Inspection performed only to the buildings posted red during the first degree
inspection or those whose occupants or owners appealed against the outcome of the first degree inspection.
Almost 1000 engineers worked for the inspection of more than 150,000 apartments in 30,000
buildings within the city and 30,000 buildings in 13,000 buildings in the surrounding rural area
(Vafeiadis et al. 1994). The gigantic operation was completed in two months, resulting mainly in a
record containing data for most of the buildings in the city.
Although the procedure followed after the Thessaloniki earthquake was put together in a very

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

short time after the earthquake and under considerable pressure, it seems that it corresponded adequately to the obvious criteria of easiness in the completion of the inspection form after a rapid,
visual inspection. On the other hand, the inspection form was rather qualitative and it did not comply with the requirements necessary for the management and future statistical processing of the
collected data.
This damage inspection procedure set up after the Thessaloniki earthquake was applied with
slight differences in the aftermath of several earthquakes in the Northern part of Greece. Yet, no
written instructions were issued and the participating engineers were given instructions orally or in
short in situ seminars, this effecting negatively the creditability and uniformity of the assessment.
The Thessaloniki earthquake initiated great changes in the earthquake relief and reconstruction
policy of Greece. First, a specialized Service for the Rehabilitation of Earthquake Damage in
Northern Greece (Y.A.S.B.E.) was established under the Ministry of Public Works, to deal with issues related to earthquake damage in Northern Greece. Also, a legislative framework was passed
establishing a system of financial and technical measures for the rehabilitation of damaged buildings. According to the law, every owner of a damaged building has the right to submit to the
authorities a full project for the repair of the building, designed by a private engineer, in order to
obtain financial assistance. This procedure lead to a full record of the damages on the building plan
at the owners expenses.
The Aklyonides-Korinthos earthquake of February 1981 which caused damage to the prefectures of Biotia and Korinthia, as well as several areas of Athens Metropolitan area, initiated significant changes in earthquake protection policies and tested the preexistent post-earthquake damage
inspection procedures.
In this case, the inspection of the buildings in Athens area was caused by the application of the
owner of the apartment or the building. Two member committees were formed for the first and
second degree inspection. Inspection forms of different types were used, among them the one issued after the Thessaloniki earthquake. Again, there were three categories of damage and the
buildings were posted in red, yellow and green color by spraying a mark on the building.
Despite the huge number of inspections performed, the collected data were in a qualitative form,
thus the statistical processing for the damage assessment was based either on private surveys
(Vourderis et al. 1984) or on the data collected from the repair or reconstruction projects submitted
by the owners (Service for the Rehabilitation of Earthquake Damage 1984).
The 1981 earthquake made earthquake protection a national priority and as a result Earthquake
Planning and Protection Organization of Greece (EPPO) was establish in 1983 with the task to deal
with matters related to earthquake safety and to coordinate all private and public actions for earthquake protection. Yet, it was not until 1984 that a integral and more complete post-earthquake procedure was introduced by Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization of Greece for a nationwide use.
The procedure proposed aimed at (Konstantinea et al. 1984):
- An objective and uniform estimation leading to minimizing the statistical error
- Avoiding serious errors and misjudgment during the inspection
- A rapid performance of the inspection
In order to achieve the first aim, the Inspection Form was based on the following criteria (EPPO
- Easy fill in of building data and of the damage category level, based on visual inspection
- Entry for damage and usability category, in explicit and standard categories in limited number
- Codification of data entries in order to facilitate a future statistical processing
Three categories of damage and six categories of usability, as well as the corresponding posting
scheme, were formed. There were four degrees of damage in structural elements (light damage,
significant damage, serious damage, heavy damage) and an explicit description of damage in each
grade and structural element was issued, aiming to a uniform grading of damage. The inspection
team consisted by two civil engineers and an assistant.
A field manual was edited in order to be distributed to engineers, administrators and agencies
involved in post-earthquake inspection of buildings. It includes the following topics : a) brief in-

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

formation on causes and grading of damage in structural elements, b) detailed instructions on damage and usability classification, c) the posting scheme, d) organizing and equipping the inspection
teams, e) step by step directions to the local authorities in order to organize the operation. The process meant to be a part of the Earthquake Emergency Plan.
The 1986 destructive Kalamata earthquake offered an opportunity to introduce the new procedure. This time the existence of an Emergency Plan, as well as of organized response mechanisms,
was obvious. Yet, at a very early stage it was decided that the sophisticated Inspection Form proposed by EPPO was too complicated in the aura of continuous aftershocks and extended collapses.
For a great percentage of the buildings a simple visual inspection even without entering the
building, was adequate to evaluate their usability. Moreover, there was no previous training of the
inspecting engineers and it seemed unrealistic to start training seminars in the destroyed city.
Hundreds of engineers participated in the three member inspection committees who inspected
about 13,500 buildings in the damaged area, organized according to EPPO procedure. Reports describing the building structure and the damage were written by the inspection team for each building. A standard qualitative inspection form was used which was the one normally used by the
Building Department for the assessment of structural capacity and the safety assessment of buildings, according to the 1929 Law About dangerous structures. The buildings were posted by
painting a red, yellow and red mark on the building. A vast variety of marks was used, led the
population to a confusion about their meaning.
Although at this phase, the data collected were impossible to process, a systematic survey followed resulting to useful conclusions regarding the spatial distribution of damage, as well as the
characteristics of damaged buildings (Argirakis et al. 1987).
Since the Kalamata earthquake, several earthquakes took place, yet the EPPO procedure was
used in only a few cases (Edessa, 1990, Pyrgos, 1993). Local authorities and engineers were reluctant in using the inspection procedure proposed.
There are several arguments against the EPPO 1984 procedure, most of them related to the fact
that the scientific thinking prevails against the emergency management point of view. The buildings are classified in both damage and usability categories, this leading to a total of six categories,
too many for a first degree inspection. The categorization criteria are based on the grading of damage in each structural element rather than on an overall judgment based on a rough inspection of
the building. The data on the inspection form are coded and the form is supplemented by long lists
of code numbers associated with all possible building characteristic and damage description, this
contributing to prolonging the necessary inspection time.
One could argue that there is a contradiction in the objectives associated with post-earthquake
inspection. On the one hand, the main purpose of the post-earthquake damage evaluation of buildings is to reduce the possibility of death or injury to the occupants of the buildings subjecting to
aftershocks, this giving a quality of urgency in the procedure. Especially if the damage is widespread and there are thousands of buildings to be inspected, the pressures on the authorities for
shortening the inspection time are tremendous, since people living in rough conditions in emergency shelters (tents, ships, etc.) need to know the condition of their buildings. Moreover, several
emergency operations are interconnected with the building inspection, like the removal or demolition of dangerous parts and elements of the building, the emergency support of some categories of
damaged buildings, the emergency demolition of buildings damaged beyond repair. Last but not
least, the results of the inspection offer a key input to important and urgent relief and reconstruction decisions, for example an estimation of the number of homeless, the number of semipermanent housing needed, the number of the households entitled a benefit from Social Services, a
rough assessment of the direct cost for the rehabilitation of damaged buildings.
On the other hand, the outcome of the inspection should support future scientific studies on
building response and vulnerability, and therefore accurate and adequate information should be
collected in a form that will facilitate the statistical processing of data.
This being the situation, several attempts and proposals were made for improving the postearthquake building inspection procedures (Anagnostopoulos 1994, Argirakis 1983 & Penelis
1984). Taking the initiative EPPO revised drastically the post-earthquake inspection procedure in

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

1996, adopting two degrees of inspection the second being the one proposed in 1984. A new procedure for a first degree, rapid, post-earthquake building usability evaluation, proposed by a working group (Dandoulaki et al. 1996) set up by EPPO, was issued and introduced after the 1996
Konitsa (N.Greece) earthquake. The international experience was also taken into consideration
(Yanev et al. 1994 & Watabe at al. 1994).
Konitsa is a town in the Northwest of Greece in a remote, isolated and mountainous area near the
boarder with Albania. It is the center of a county of a rural character and it is located on a slope.
The area was hit by an earthquake magnitude Ms=5.2 in July 26, 1996 (21:55 local time) resulting in extended damage in the town of Konitsa, as well as in villages in the surrounding area.
Another earthquake of magnitude Ms=5.6 occur in August 6, 1996 increasing the damage ( Institute of Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, 1996).
The new procedure for a first degree, rapid, post-earthquake building usability evaluation was
introduced for the first time after the first earthquake and it was repeated after the second earthquake. The inspection of all 1500 buildings in Konitsa town and the near by villages was organized, coordinated by the Prefecture Engineering Department.
After the first earthquake 41 engineers, architects, civil engineer technologists and foremen,
most of them locals, participated in pairs in the 30 inspection teams which undertook the task to
inspect all buildings in the area. The survey was completed in 3 days.
All 925 buildings of Konitsa town were inspected and the collected data were used for a preliminary usability assessment , according to which a 16% of all buildings were unusable/dangerous
(red), a 25% were temporarily unusable (yellow) and the rest 59% were usable (green).
In a second stage, a statistical processing of the filled in forms was conducted by EPPO in order
to evaluate the sufficiency and the clarity of the form, as well as for examining the usability and
damage distribution in the town area (Dandoulaki et al. 1997).
The data from to the inspection form gave the limited possibility of only three factors related to
seismic behavior of the buildings, to be considered : type of structure, number of stories and existence of basement.
Taking into account the limitations resulting by the given distribution of task areas to the inspection teams, the town area was divided in three zones (Figure 1). For this division the fact that
the accelerations recorded during the second earthquake differed (0.17g in the upper part of the
town and 0.39g in the lower part of the town) was considered also.
The Zone III with 192 buildings is the upper part of the town and the older one. Most of the traditional and historic buildings are there. A 68 % of the buildings are masonry structures. Around
90% are of residential and about 10 % are of commercial occupancy. One story and two stories
buildings exist in almost equal percentage.
The Zone II with 486 buildings is the intermediate part of the town. A 49 % of the building
stock is masonry structures. A 65 % of the buildings are of residential and around 11% of commercial occupancy.
The Zone I with 247 buildings is the lower part of the town, a recent extension in the Aoos river
plain. A 54% of the buildings is reinforced concrete structures and only 24% are masonry structures. Most of the buildings are of two and three stories.
Some of the results of the statistical processing are presented in the following figures (Figures

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

Figure 1. Map of Konitsa town: The division in three zones for the statistical processing of the building usability evaluation data (Source: Municipality of Konitsa).

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

Temporary unusable
Zone I
Zone II
Zone III
Figure 2. The percentage of buildings in each usability category in the three zones in the town of Konitsa
after the 26 July, 1996 earthquake.





Figure 3. Percentage of reinforced concrete and masonry buildings in each usability category for the three
zones in Konitsa town after the 26 July 1996 earthquake (Ms=5.2).

The statistical processing of the filled in forms resulted in some useful information on how the
procedure introduced performed, as well as on damage assessment and distribution.
First of all, significant information about the building, such us type of structure or the existence
of basement or not, was not filled in. Especially there was a problem in classifying the masonry
buildings in two different categories according to the form. This can be explained by the fact that
the available engineers did not have the experience and the knowledge required to undertake this
task., since the area have not experienced an earthquake for many decades. Nevertheless, the first
degree inspection was completed in a reasonably short time and with sufficient reliability.
Certain points of the form proved to need modification and additional data entries seemed to be
necessary, if the collected information was to be used for preliminary scientific research. For example, there was no entry for filling in data on the existence or not of a soft story, a factor that
seemed to have a significant effect on building damage in Konitsa.
The task areas of the inspection teams were allocated along the main streets of the town. This
proved to pose unexpected limitations on how the area could be divided in zones for the damage
distribution study. More guidance to the local authorities needed to be given on how to allocate the
area among the inspection teams in order to facilitate damage distribution studies.
Regarding the damage, its distribution agreed with the seismic ground accelerations recorded in
the town. In all three zones the seismic behavior of the reinforced concrete buildings was better
than this of the masonry buildings. Due to the small sample of buildings and the significant number
of forms not completely filled in, the results of the statistical processing are not sound enough to
support conclusions on the seismic behavior due to different building characteristics.

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3














Figure 4. Percentage of buildings in each usability category in the three zones according to the number of
stories after the 26 July, 1996 Konitsa earthquake.

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3


Taking into account the improvements suggested after evaluating the rapid building usability assessment procedure in the aftermath of Konitsa EQ, EPPO finalized the first-degree building inspection procedures.
The aims of the new first-degree inspection are:
- To examine if there is an immediate danger due to building collapse or a fall over of building
parts or elements. Also, to propose safety measures for the protection of the occupants or the
public, as well as for the support of the building in order to prevent its collapse if possible.
- To assess as soon as possible after the earthquake, the number of buildings that are not usable
and of the households needing shelter, as well as to present an overview of the damage to the
building stock in the area.
In the first-degree inspection it is accepted that the evaluation is often cursory in nature and it is
used to quickly identify obviously unsafe and apparently safe structures. The emergency safety
measures proposed are obligatory for the building owner to comply with. In is not rare though that
the authorities undertake extensive emergency enterprises for the implementation of safety measures in all damaged area or in selected parts. There are many examples of this policy of Greek
authorities like the following: barricading and demolition of building elements that posed danger to
the public after the 1986 Kalamata EQ, emergency support of damaged buildings of special interest
after the 1995 Aigion EQ, demolition of buildings damaged beyond repair after the 1996 Konitsa
Responsible for the organization of the safety assessment of individual buildings are the local
authorities and in most cases the Engineering Department in the prefecture where the damage occurred.
Inspected buildings are classified in three categories of usability: usable, temporary unusable,
unusable dangerous and are posted accordingly in green, yellow and red with a self-adhesive
sheet of paper or by spray-painting a mark. The description of each category, the color-code posting classification scheme, as well as an indicative description of damage for each category, are
summarized in Figure 5. Buildings classified as temporary unusable and unusable - dangerous, are
to be inspected again in a more thorough second-degree inspection according to the EPPO 1984
Since the first degree inspection takes place in the immediate post-event period characterized by
aftershocks, limited personnel resources and urgent needs, the inspection should be as brief as possible. Therefore, the Inspection Form (Figure 6) is kept as simple as possible including only limited
data entries. The Form is filled in two copies, the one handed in to the owner of the building immediately after the inspection and the other submitted to the Engineering Department every day
after the completion of the work of the Inspection Team.
The inspection is carried out by two member inspection teams, the one being a structural engineer if possible.
It is expected that the available, suitable personnel of the Engineering and Building Departments in the damaged area is not enough to take on the building assessment after a devastating
earthquake. Thus, either engineers working in the Public Sector in other jurisdictions are transported to the damaged area or there is an appeal to individuals familiar with building design and
construction process (civil and structural engineers, architects, civil engineer technologists, even
foremen) to volunteer. Under these conditions, although it is desirable, not only experienced engineers take part in the inspection.
Taking this into account, EPPO published a short booklet with instructions and basic information, targeting the future inspectors, as well as the authorities responsible to organize the inspection. Also, EPPO print blocks of inspection forms and made sure that the table with the basic information (Figure 5) is print on everyone of them. Nevertheless, continuous effort to train the
people who will probably be involved in post-earthquake usability assessment, is necessary as a
preparedness measure, since engineering judgment and experience is difficult to be substituted.

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3






Temporarily unusable

Buildings with no visible
damages and/or whose original seismic capacity has not
been significantly decreased

Fine cracks to the walls and

ceiling mortar

Buildings whose seismic capacity has been decreased

and/or they pose a danger
condition due to damage of
non structural elements

Large patches of mortar falling

off walls and ceilings

The need for immediate

safety measures for the protection of the building and
the public, should be considered (temporary support,
propping, warning signs,
demolition or removal of
dangerous elements on the


A more detailed evaluation

of these buildings will be
performed during a second
degree inspection
Until then the buildings
should not be used on a continuous basis. Only limited
entry for a short time at
owners risk, is permitted


Unusable / Dangerous


Hairline cracks in horizontal RC

structural members

Light damage to the roof

Large cracks or failure of chimneys, gable walls and etc.
Diagonal or other large cracks
to bearing walls
Diagonal cracks or failure of the
material in bearing walls between openings
Cracks in structural RC members (beams, columns, shear
walls), but to an extent that does
not constitute a danger of collapse
Heavy damage or collapse of
the roof
Slight distortion of structural

Buildings with heavy damage. Imminent danger of

sudden collapse. Entry is absolutely prohibited.

Heavy damage and distortion of

structural elements

All necessary safety measures should be taken immediately, e.g. to protect the
adjoining buildings, to prevent the public from coming
close to the building

Considerable dislocation of a
storey and of the whole building

Large number of crushed structural elements and connections.

Bearing walls suffer dislocation

or the material is crashed

Total or partial collapse

Figure 5. Post-earthquake building safety classification (Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization of
Greece, 1997).

11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

Figure 6. The inspection form for a first degree rapid building usability evaluation (Earthquake Planning and
Protection Organization of Greece, 1997).


11th European Conference on Earthquake Engineering 1998 Balkema, Rotterdam, ISBN 90 5410 982 3

The booklet informs on the assembling of inspection teams and it specifies their obligations as
well as the equipment requirements. It also describes step by step the process of first degree inspection and the activities of the organizing authority. Legal and legislation issues are also discussed.
Last but not least, the involvement of media in the procedure is mentioned. As a principle, people do not live in their homes during the immediate post-event period and sometimes they even live
in camps far away from their neighborhood. However, the owners should be informed about when
the inspection of their building will take place and to be there, if the inspection teams are to enter
the building and to obtain information about the building. At any case, it is our experience that
people long to be informed about the procedure and its progress, to understand about what this inspection is about, to know when their homes will be inspected.
For this reason, a typical announcement giving the basic information about the rapid usability
assessment was included in the booklet, to assist the local authorities to disseminate this information through the media as soon as possible.
Anagnostopoulos, S.A. 1994. Post-earthquake emergency assessment of building safety: Technical, organizational and legal issues. In Anagnostopoulos, A. (ed.), Post earthquake emergency damage and usability assessment of buildings; Proc. int. sem., Athens, 22-24 Sept. 1993.
Argirakis, K., Vlantikas, A., Georgousis, G., Gioulousi, F., Zisiadis, A. 1983. Post-earthquake inspection of
buildings. Report of working group for the Ministry of Planning, Settlements and Environment (In
Argirakis, K. et al. 1987. Damage assessment after the 1986 Kalamata earthquake. Report of working group
for the Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization of Greece (In Greek).
Dandoulaki, M., Panoutsopoulou, M., Ioannides, K. 1997. Statistical processing of the results of the first degree inspection of the buildings in Konitsa town after the 26-7-1996 earthquake (Ms=5.2). Report for
Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization of Greece (In Greek).
Dandoulaki, M., Vandoros, G., Zisiadis, A., Kiriazis, A. 1996. Procedure and forms for a first degree postearthquake usability assessment of buildings. Working group report for Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization of Greece (In Greek).
Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization of Greece. 1984. Post-earthquake buildings survey: Instructions and forms for the inspection of buildings after an earthquake (In Greek).
Institute of Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering. 1996. The 6 August 1996 Konitsa earthquake (Ms=5.6): Preliminary report on the strong motion and building behavior (In Greek).
Konstantinea, A. & Zisiadis, A. 1984. A proposal for post-earthquake inspection of buildings. In Earthquakes and structures; Proc. Confer., Athens, 20-24 February 1984: 574-594 (In Greek).
Penelis, G. 1984. Post-earthquake problems: Inspection - Evaluation of buildings. In Earthquakes and
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Vafeiadis, E., Derekas, L., Sarigiannis, D. 1994. Post-earthquake damage and strength assessment of buildings and relevant posting of them. Experience from earthquakes during the last 15 years in Greece. In
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Vourderis, A., Zavliari, E., Zavliaris, K., Tzanetou, K., Froussou, A. 1984. Statistical processing of damage
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