Winston C. Oreta, D. Eng.
Professor in Civil Engineering De La Salle University – Manila, Philippines Email:,

Abstract: Structural and geotechnical engineers have significantly contributed towards the protection and conservation of the natural environment especially when we consider the impact of natural disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides, on infrastructures and the environment. Today, the emphasis of sustainability is on how to deal with the issues of limited resources and how to reduce the impacts on the natural environment. But in an environment frequently attacked by natural disasters like seismic countries, Japan and the Philippines, the primary considerations in the design and construction of infrastructures are safety and stability. When structures and foundations are properly designed for safety and stability, the accumulation of construction waste and disaster-caused debris waste is minimized and the consumption of non-renewable natural resources is reduced. This paper highlights the contribution of structural and geotechnical engineers to the preservation of the environment. Key Words: Sustainability, Natural Disasters, Environmental Impact, Safety, Stability 1. INTRODUCTION: Today, there is an increasing demand for engineers to focus their efforts on the protection and preservation of the environment. The civil engineering community, which includes structural and geotechnical engineers, plays a major role in maintaining the balance and harmony between the built and existing natural environment. Provision of proper housing and the necessary infrastructure for transport, communication, water supply and sanitation, energy, commercial and industrial activities to meet the needs of a growing worldwide population, at the same time reducing the environmental impact, pose a major challenge to civil engineers (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Infrastructure Development (Photo by A. Oreta)

the share of the total waste from building sites including excavation material amounts to 57% of the total waste per year (Maydl 2004). Buildings are reported to produce 40% of the world’s CO2. within the European Union (EU). In Austria. Building construction and demolition (C&D) generated 123 million metric tons of waste in .7 million commercial buildings and 230. INFRASTRUCTURE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT The built environment. In the case of the United Sates. consume 71% of its electricity and emit 38% of the greenhouse gases. However. long-span bridges. Two major impacts of infrastructure development: (a) Depletion of natural resources. The environmental impact of infrastructure development with respect to the depletion of our natural resources and production of waste is staggering (Figure 2). consume 3 billion tonnes of raw materials in construction each year and consume 75% of all energy used through artificial lighting. According to him. 4. consume 50% of the energy derived from fossil fuels. heating and cooling every day. provide for a livable atmosphere for all. roads and expressways. 25% of all wood harvested is used in building construction. Residential and commercial buildings consume 39% of the nation’s prime energy. the impact of these infrastructures on the natural environment should be a concern.2. which includes infrastructures such as residential houses. Richardson (2002) summarizes the realities of infrastructure impact on the environment as follows: It is said that 50% of the world population lives in cities today and this may grow to 75% by 2030.000 Figure 2. Cities are said to cause 75% of the world’s pollution and consume 75% of the world’s energy. high-rise buildings. and large civil structures like dams and reservoirs. Webster (2004) summarizes the following information: There are 83 million residential buildings. half of all materials that are taken from the earth’s surface are used in the construction sector and more than one fourth of the amount of the total waste is construction waste. and (b) Accumulation of construction waste industrial buildings in the US. Maydl (2004) emphasizes that the construction sector is the most important contributor in resource consumption and waste production.

1990 earthquake (M 7. IMPACT OF NATURAL DISASTERS The natural environment. caused between 3 and 4 billion U. Construction waste accounted for 8% of the total. renovation waste 44%. Aside from causing numerous deaths and injuries to people.500. News of a disaster brings grief (Headline from the Philippine Daily Inquirer) Figure 4.124 were seriously damaged in Mexico City. About 60 percent of the buildings were destroyed at Ciudad Guzman. dollars of damage. Consider the following examples: The 1985 Mexico City earthquake resulted in a death toll of at least 9. typhoons and volcanic eruptions spoil both the built and natural environment.Baguio City (Photo from Hawaiian Webmaster) .8) which struck northern and central Luzon Island in the Philippines resulted in substantial morbidity and mortality and widespread damage. It is estimated that the quake seriously affected an area of approximately 825. 20 to 30% was recovered or recycled and the bulk of the remainder was deposited in landfills. Of this waste. natural disasters had caused the destruction of important infrastructures such as buildings. about 40% went to C&D landfills.000 people left homeless. Collapsed Hyatt Hotel. The July 16. Jalisco (USGS website). through natural disasters. and was felt by almost 20 million people. equivalent to ½ ton per person per year. Natural disasters like earthquakes. Four hundred twelve buildings collapsed and another 3. Dagupan city in Figure 3. floods. bridges and roads and devastation of nature which contributed to environmental degradation.000 square kilometers. Approximately 43% of the waste came from residential sources and 57% from non-residential sources. Among the areas severely affected were the mountain city of Baguio. 30.1996.S. and demolition waste 48%. the coastal areas in La Union. in a way contributes to its deterioration.000 injuries and more than 100. buried or burned on-site. 3.

000 fatalities and close to 35. Many of the new timber houses with light roofs partially collapsed. Nearly 55.8 on the Richter scale hit the city of Kobe and surrounding areas in Hyogo prefecture on January 17. The Hyogo-ken Nanbu or the “Great Hanshin” earthquake measuring 6. Buildings in Baguio and Cabanatuan suffered extensive structural failure. Traditional wooden houses with heavy tiled roofs suffered the most severe impact.000 houses were severely damaged in the city of Kobe.415 110 edifices were deemed partially damaged and may be partially occupied. which literally crushed people in their sleep.336 houses severely damaged (Wikipedia). Gujarat's commercial capital and a city of 4.000 serious injuries were caused by the earthquake. Considerable damage occurred also at Bhachau. and flattened a hospital. as many as 50 multistory buildings collapsed and several hundred people were killed. The quake destroyed 90 percent of the homes in Bhuj. of more than 350 inspected edifices.primarily Cabanatuan city in Nueva Ecija and mountainous Nueva Viscaya. 100. over 500. Over 6. Kawashima) more than 30.000. The 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India was the most devastating earthquake in India in recent history. 1.000 buildings by fire. and buildings in the coastal areas in La Union and in Dagupan suffered foundation failure or the effects of liquefaction. several schools. 1990). US$9.000 houses collapsed and 32. caused by building collapse.000 persons effectively lost their place to live as a direct result of the quake.338 houses completely destroyed and 41.074 designated as 'severely damaged'. Earthquake waste and debris .2 billion worth of damage. Total property damage was estimated at more than $5. In Baguio City. with 107. Both of these types of houses caught fire easily. The cost of reconstruction of buildings alone was roughly estimated at between US $61-70 billion (http://www. leading to the destruction of over 23. In total.209 housing units were officially classified as 'totally damaged'.441 severely wounded.5 billion (Wikipedia). Most of these collapsed. 1995.html).000 20.000 people were initially reported dead but within a few days after the earthquake. As many as 15.5 million. and the central plain area . the Figure 5.cohre. consisting of public. 44.Pangasinan. publicly-used and private buildings. The 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake in Taiwan caused 2. and 54 buildings showed no observable damage or only minor damage thus allowing resumption of their normal operation (Baguio Midland Courier/August 5.1995 Hyogodeath toll kept on rising reaching ken Nanbu Earthquake (Photo by K. . In Ahmedabad. 88% of the deaths were instantaneous. 190 structures were pronounced building hazards.

India. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami affected about 11 countries in Southeast Asia including Indonesia.The 2004 Niigata . Disaster Debris (from US EPA) Major Categories of Disaster Debris Damaged Buildings Hurricanes Earthquakes Tornadoes Floods Fires X X X X X X Sediments X X Green Waste X X X X Personal Property X X X X X X X Ash and Charred Wood The most severe natural disasters generate debris in quantities that can overwhelm existing solid waste management facilities or force communities to use disposal options that otherwise would not be acceptable. earthquakes. For the first time in its history. Much of the debris generated from natural disasters is not hazardous. Somalia. The number of people killed and missing has reached more than 200. was 30. Part of Nagaoka Station appeared ready to collapse as a result of an aftershock. a Shinkansen train derailed while in service. tornadoes. Myanmar. the Maldives. More than half a million were left homeless. the natural resources. Debris from hurricanes. make up most of the volume of disaster debris. Debris estimates for major earthquakes in the US range from . Buses transferred passengers between the two operating segments of the line: Tokyo Station–Echigo Yuzawa Station and Nagaoka Station–Niigata Station. which was second hardest hit by the catastrophe. floods. building material.000 injuries and over one hundred thousand people fled their homes. the station has reopened. Moreover. Tadami Line and Echigo Line. Table 1. Eight out of ten cars of the Toki 325 (a 200 Series Shinkansen) derailed on the Joetsu Shinkansen line between Nagaoka Station in Nagaoka and Urasa Station in Yamato East Japan Railway Company stopped aall trains in Niigata Prefecture. As a consequence of the destruction brought about by natural disasters. Iiyama Line. and green waste.Chuetsu earthquake in Japan caused more than 3. Sri Lanka. The toll in Sri Lanka. and fires falls into a few major categories (Table 1). The segment of the Joetsu Shinkansen between Echigo Yuzawa Station and Nagaoka Station closed. materials and energy that have been utilized in constructing these infrastructures have been put to waste. but after a brief closure. Soil.957 (Wikipedia). Debris removal is a major component of every disaster recovery operation. Thailand. Shinetsu Main Line. such as trees and shrubs. the large amount of disaster-caused waste and debris poses another environmental problem (Figure 5). including the extensively damaged Joetsu Line. The earthquakes caused houses to collapse in Ojiya and damaged thousands in the area. Malaysia and Seychelles.000 in Indonesia.

volcanic eruptions. flashfloods. to 2. foundation settlement.000 tons for a magnitude 7. tsunamis.500. etc. landslides. The Impact of the Environment on Infrastructures Disasters due to natural hazards (earthquakes. Understanding the Relationship between Infrastructures and the Environment . typhoons) Destruction and collapse of infrastructures causing deaths and injuries Structural deterioration (steel corrosion.) due to severe environment Natural Environment Infrastructures and the Built Environment The Impact of Infrastructures on the Environment Construction and operation of infrastructures uses natural resources and energy Costly repairs and rehabilitation of damaged infrastructures use more resources and leads to wastage End-of-life effects of structures and debris of structures damaged by disasters cause disposal problems Figure 6.7 on the San Andreas Fault (DiMartino 1999).5 million tons for a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on the Hayward Fault.

the emphasis of sustainability is on how to deal with the issues of limited resources and how to reduce the impacts on the natural environment. How do structural and geotechnical engineers contribute towards the reduction of these negative impacts in a region where natural disasters like earthquakes. when they properly design structures and foundations for safety and stability. the natural environment especially Kawashima) when we consider the impact of natural disasters.4. leads to the reduction of non-renewable natural resources consumption and minimizing the accumulation of construction waste and disaster-caused debris waste. These primary responsibilities of structural and geotechnical engineers regarding safety and stability. on the other hand. the primary considerations in the design and construction of infrastructures are safety and stability. The negative impact of infrastructures on the environment. Engineers. even if they do not directly address the issue of the environment by using tools such as Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) or adopting “sustainable engineering” concepts in their design. The responsibility of structural and geotechnical engineers in designing for safety and stability and the role they . always contribute to the preservation of the environment. Updating of codes and retrofitting of significantly contributed towards existing structures may prevent similar failures the protection and conservation of 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu Earthquake (Photo by K. tsunamis and landslides. Proper analysis. The lack of understanding on the impact of structural and foundation failures of built structures on the environment is one of the chief impediments to achieving the greatest possible reduction in the environmental impact of infrastructures. typhoons and landslides are prevalent? I believe the basic but critical factor in reducing the negative impacts of natural disasters on both the built and natural environment is “designing for safety and stability. CONTRIBUTION OF STRUCTURAL AND GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEERS IN DISASTER-PRONE COUNTRIES The negative impacts between infrastructures and the environment are summarized in Figure 6. Japan and the Philippines. When structures are strengthened or retrofitted. But in an environment frequently attacked by natural disasters like seismic countries. However. the usable life of the structure is extended reducing end-of-life waste. on infrastructures and the environment.” Structural and geotechnical engineers have Figure 7. are actually contributing significantly to the preservation of the natural environment. especially in the event of the occurrence natural disasters. like earthquakes. in the end. aggravates especially when natural disasters occur. Natural disasters like earthquakes spoil the built environment. Today. engineers. design and construction of structures will minimize damage or collapse. Refined modeling. Strengthening and improvement of unstable slopes will control the occurrence of landslides. testing and analysis of soil may prevent foundation failures.

addresses also the issue of sustainability to diminish the social and ecological impact. they should also appreciate the fundamentals of sustainable development and have the know-how to interpret the environmental labeling and quality standards.” Sustainability of the Built Environment in Seismic Regions Research Group 3 (RG3) of the JSPS Core University Program on Environmental Engineering addresses issues related to the safety and stability of infrastructures in highly urbanized and densely populated regions against environmental impacts especially earthquakes. A structural engineer should try to maintain a balance between the prefabricated elements or mass produced units and the self-built or indigenous technologies together using newer and innovative approaches to the design. (d) sustainability. The material and resource selection eventually based upon the environment qualities and friendliness must also be addressed at the initial stage of the design. aside from finding clever solutions to concerning the maintenance of environment especially in disaster-prone countries must be appreciated by everyone including the so-called “environmentalists. 5. This can be done by understanding the impact of natural hazards to infrastructures. The design of structures should now be aimed towards the following important considerations – the “ 4 S and 1 E” : (a) safety. Evaluation and assessment of structural and geotechnical hazards II. The built environment. reductions of on-site activities. reuse. bridges. economy and serviceability. on the other hand. wastage and disposal of construction materials. Although the major responsibility of structural and geotechnical engineers is designing for safety and stability. Thus RG3. . analysis and design III. enhancing the performance and upgrading the construction of new structures and extending the lifespan of existing structures – these activities would result to an efficient use of non-renewable materials and reduction of waste materials from damaged or collapsed structures. introduces negative impacts in the natural environment through the use. finding ways of improving the design. The system and the form of structure which plays an important role in aesthetics. slopes and reclaimed lands. Development and implementation of programs to mitigate the effects of natural hazards. Faster construction. cost factor and the speed in implementation are factors to consider in sustainable design. DESIGN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT Sustainability in the built environment must consider the entire lifetime of structures “from cradle to grave”. and (e) economy. The natural environment through geotechnical and seismic hazards affects the safety and stability of various infrastructures such as buildings. (c) serviceability. The group recognizes the interrelationship between the natural environment and the built environment. The researches (Table 2) conducted by Philippine visiting scientists through the JSPS Core University Program on Environmental Engineering can be categorized into three major themes: I. and mitigation of damage or collapse of structures which causes injury and death. optimization of resources and cost effectiveness are innovations that must be introduced in a structural design and implementation. (b) stability. Evaluation and improvement of the performance of structures and foundations through refined modeling.

Prediction of Deflection of RC Beams Strengthened with Carbon Fiber Fabric and Carbon Plate by Alan Tan (UPD) 11. tsunamis and volcanic eruptions and their effects on built structures. PHOTO ARCHIVES ON IMPACT OF NATURAL DISASTERS To increase awareness about the impact of natural disasters on built infrastructures and the impact of structural and geotechnical failures on the environment. Seismic Vulnerability Rating of Philippine Bridges by Romeo Estanero 7. Enecio (USC) 5. a photo archive and slide show video presentation was developed. Interaction of Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer and Lateral Steel Ties in Circular Concrete Columns as Confinement by Jason M. Performance of Neural Network Models in Predicting the Confined Concrete Strength and Strain of Circular Columns” by Andres Oreta (DLSU) 4. Summary of JSPS Research Topics (Philippines) Research Topic / Researcher 1. Natural Vibration and Damping Characteristics of a Steel Bridge by Gerardo Apor (Xavier University) 9. Structural Damage Detection for Bolted Connection between Two Steel Plates Using Laser Doppler Vibrometry by Giovanni J. Lateral Resistance of Piles Subjected to Liquefaction-Induced Lateral Flow by Jonathan Dungca (DLSU) 3.Table 2. Highlighted in the photo archive and video presentation are some important natural disasters like earthquakes. lessons on the cause of the damage or collapse of structures may be learned and corresponding response can be done to reduce the impact of natural hazards. Quantitative non-destructive testing and evaluation of ultrasound wave propagation in anisotropic media by Raymund Dimagiba (UPD) 12. Parametric Investigation on the Flexure and Shear Behavior of RC Column to Evaluate its Seismic Performance” by Bernardo Lejano (TUP/DLSU) 2. Zarco (UPD) 6. An Improved Implicit Integration Algorithm for the Sekiguchi-Ohta Constitutive Equation by Mark Albert H. Use of Microtremor for Evaluating Shallow and Deep Geologic Profile by Glenn Pintor (UPLB) 10. This can be viewed using the Windows Media Player. . landslides.C. Ongpeng (DLSU) 8. A photo slide show video presenting the collections of this photo archive was also developed and saved as an mpeg file in both VCD and DVD codec. Through these photos. Embedment effect on the bearing capacity of spread footing in sand by Mary Ann Adajar (DLSU) I II X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X III X 6.

epa. J. Mark D.cohre. 13. John (2004). http://www.html Acknowledgement This project was conducted under the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Core University Program on Environmental Engineering. .Figure 8. Suemasa. Konagai. Prof. A. Vol. Prof. Lazaro III and PHIVOLCS. Ohta. Kuwano. “Sustainable Engineering: State-of-the-Art and Prospects. Orense. Prof. IABSE Symposium. “Relevance of Structural Engineers to Sustainable Design of Buildings.wikipedia. 176-180. The author expresses his thanks to Prof.usgs. “The Realities of Sustainability. Maydl. (2004). Nakajima and Dr. Richardson. 181-185. “Planning for disaster debris” http://www. http://neic. No. Hawaiian Webmaster. pp.html http://www.wasteage. 14. Prof. pp.” Proc. Ohno.pdf#search='disaster%20debris' Dimartino. Dr. Hideki Ohta for serving as the Japanese host professor. “. Structural Engineering International. Photo Slide Show Presentation on “The Impact of Natural Disasters and on Infrastructures and the Environment” References Webster.cdc.” http://sept11. Peter (2004). Prof. J.” Structural Engineering International. Melbourne USGS.cityofpines.htm US EPA.html http://en. Prof. Prof. Prof. Katada. The author wish to express their gratitude to those who contributed their original photos: Prof. of the IABSE. Kawashima. No. Thirapong and Miss Akiko Nozawa is appreciated. of the IABSE. Honda. Vol. The assistance of the Ohta laboratory faculty and staff especially to Dr. (1999) “Picking-up the pieces II. Prof. http://www.

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