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A recently published report presents new national seismic hazard maps for the UK that have been developed to update the advice given to engineers about designing structures for earthquake resistance.
The new maps have important implications for the consulting engineering community, particularly those involved with projects involving a higher than usual consequences of failure – the ‘consequence class’ in Eurocode language.
The new maps give parameters that are directly related to those in the new draft of EC8. This enables a comparison of UK seismic hazard levels with the threshold level recommended by EC8 above which consideration of seismic design becomes advisable. For almost all ‘standard’ consequence class structures, the new maps suggest that the threshold is unlikely to be crossed.
Since this threshold level is a recommendation which can be adjusted nationally, the UK will over the next year or two have to decide whether the exemption for ‘standard’ structures will be applied to the UK as whole, as is presently recommended in a BSI document (PD6988) dated 2013, which refers to the current version of EC8. For higher consequence classes, particularly in the areas of higher- than-average seismic hazard, and for sites underlain by soft soils, some projects might need to consider whether a degree of seismic design is needed; this might apply to projects such as a large hospital providing emergency care, a vital transportation link or a manufacturing facility particularly sensitive to ground vibrations.
The highest consequence class – CC4 – is not fully covered by the Eurocodes, and projects, particularly those in the nuclear power industry, are in any case covered by separate legislation and procedures. Here, the new seismic hazard maps are not directly usable, because there needs to be a site-specific assessment of seismic hazard extending to very long return periods, rather than the regional approach appropriate for maps. Even in this case, the extensive review of the sources of seismicity in the UK and its surroundings, and the use of up-to-date methods of assessment in the development of these maps, may well prove valuable.
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