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In Talat N’Yaaqoub, a town just 20 kilometers from the epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude Morocco earthquake, we discovered the vulnerability of even contemporary commercial buildings to seismic events. One striking example is a commercial building suffering from what engineers term a “soft story.”

A “soft story” is a building level that’s less rigid than the floors above it. This typically occurs when the ground floor lacks sufficient structural reinforcement. In the building we examined, an inadequate amount of rebar made the ground floor particularly susceptible to a “soft story” collapse.

Overlooking critical details, such as proper rebar placement, can place buildings at a high risk of collapse. In Talat N’Yaaqoub, this oversight resulted in significant structural damage, serving as a grim reminder of the paramount importance of engineering precision.

During our on-site inspection, we identified instances where a few seconds of additional seismic activity could have led to complete structural failure. While the building’s pillars were reinforced with rebar, they lacked a crucial element: steel hooks. A recurrent error, with a simple and cost-effective solution, Critical tie reinforcement for columns required the right placement and 135-degree hooks. This addition could have greatly enhanced the building’s resilience.

Despite these sobering findings, strengthening buildings against earthquakes need not be a complex or expensive endeavor. A straightforward solution involves wrapping ‘free-bond’ reinforcements or steel hooks around the pillars. This seemingly small adjustment could be a game-changer, potentially safeguarding buildings, and lives during seismic events.

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