The general advice for people seeking a house in Turkey to find one built after the 1999 Marmara earthquake may sound solid, but the wisdom doesn’t hold true in 62 provinces.
It is common for people to prefer a house built after the earthquake because of the popular belief that legislation passed shortly after the quake strengthened construction control mechanisms and the quality of buildings. But a recently revealed report by the Public Works Ministry nulls that idea.
Buildings in 62 provinces are under threat of being destroyed in an earthquake because they fall short of structural standards implemented in Turkey’s other 19 provinces after the 1999 Marmara quake, according to the “Residence Control Report.”
The daily Radikal disclosed the report and wrote that it had been hidden like a secret. According to the report, between 10 and 30 percent of houses in the 62 provinces are under risk while the situation in the 19 provinces is positive because the construction controls were properly applied.
"This report clearly indicates that the law on controlling construction cannot sufficiently provide a reliable control mechanism. The ministry has been too slow to offer proper regulations. The control process has completely broken down,” Eyüp Muhçu, head of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
In Turkey’s 81 provinces, the ministry inspected more than 3,200 buildings to test their bearing capacity and other relevant issues. At least 40 buildings in each province were checked. There has been a significant rise in the quality of buildings in the 19 provinces where the controls are in place, the report concluded. The ministry also determined that in the 19 provinces a test that measures the elasticity capacity of steel material was performed in around 97 percent of the buildings.
But when it comes to the provinces outside the jurisdiction of the law, the ministry’s report reveals a tragic picture. Although in a quake zone, many buildings in eastern Anatolian cities are arguably waiting to be destroyed in an earthquake. The percentage of buildings with improperly built load-bearing systems is between 10 and 30 percent.
Moreover, the percentage of buildings that underwent proper testing to measure structural strength was low in those cities. The provinces outside of the law but in first-degree quake zones are the Anatolian provinces of Şırnak, Hakkâri, Siirt, Muş, Bingöl, Adıyaman, Kahramanmaraş, Tunceli, Erzincan, Tokat, Amasya, Çankırı, Karabük, Bilecik, Muğla, Afyon, Uşak, Burdur, Isparta. Meanwhile, the 19 pilot provinces are Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Balıkesir, Bolu, Bursa, Çanakkale, Denizli, Düzce, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Hatay, İstanbul, İzmir, Kocaeli, Sakarya, Tekirdağ and Yalova.
The report was presented to Public Works Minister Mustafa Demir a couple of months ago, but nothing was done to bring all the provinces under an efficient control mechanism, daily Radikal reported.
“We urgently need a new system to restore control over construction. The current mechanism is not working properly. It is still unclear whether institutions that are supposed to implement control mechanisms are using objective criteria,” said Tayfun Kahraman, head of the Istanbul Chamber of City Planners.
Istanbul Chamber of Architect’s head Muhcu also said Turkey needs a new countrywide control process based on scientific principles and more participation if the country is to have a reliable control system for construction. “It should be a countrywide control process rather than a system based on pilot-region practices,” he said.
“Everything should be changed and we need a new law to make these drastic changes,” said Kahraman, adding that the builders should consult experts like city planners, engineers and architects.
Muhcu said the control mechanism under the current law does not work as it should. “Even buildings constructed by state-run institutions and TOKİ [the Housing Development Administration] are not within the scope of this law,” he said.
“Universities, municipalities and all actors along the control process should contribute to a new system that can be implemented in all provinces across the country,” he said.