Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Engineering (ME)


Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering

First Advisor

Ross B. Corotis

Second Advisor

Nevis Cook

Third Advisor

Mettupalayam Sivaselvan


This thesis investigates the underlying relationship between the implicit level of risk accepted for natural hazard vulnerability, and the level of economic, social and political development of the country. In particular, it reports on a study of seismic hazard and code development/enforcement for three countries at very different levels of development, illustrated through a case study. Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand all experienced major earthquakes in 2010. The loss of life and devastation in Haiti, however, was much worse than in Chile and New Zealand, despite the magnitude of the earthquake being smaller. The aim of this study is to compare the differences among the three events, as well as comment on some of the social aspects that led to the conditions at the time of the earthquakes. Variables considered are: magnitude of earthquake, depth of hypocenter, local geological conditions, demographics of the population, population at risk in the area of the earthquake, and performance of structures in the affected areas. Vulnerability information is also related to the seismic provisions of the building codes, and the atmosphere of code enforcement. Damage has been and is continuing to be investigated by several countries concerning the loss of lives, injury, property damage, and how well various structures have performed in these three countries. This study reports on the connection between the performance of structures and the quality and enforcement of existing building codes in the respective countries. This is accomplished through a review of current and prior building codes, a comparison of the codes to that of the United States, and the standard practice of inspection or enforcement of codes during construction. Recognizing the differing degree of economic development and societal needs, and considering the international contributions of aid, the question of mandatory code development and enforcement is considered.