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eKantipur Documents the Scope of GFI and Engineers' Damage Assessments in Nepal

eKantipur Documents the Scope of GFI and Engineers' Damage Assessments in Nepal

eKantipur, an online publication of the Kathmandu Post, recently documented the work of engineers organized by GFI and BCN in Nepal. The article details the scope and likely cause of damage to Nepali homes. The full text of the article can be viewed below.

KATHMANDU, MAY 22 - Only 20 percent of the 1,500 house inspected by the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI), the US-based non-profit organisation, were found uninhabitable due to extent of damage caused by the April 25 Great Quake.

The GFI has estimated that 40 percent house in Kathmandu Valley are safe to live while another 40 percent are in need of repair.

GFI estimation was based on initial report presented by a group of American structural engineers who carried out damage assessment of residence, hospitals and schools recently.

Though it is not a statistical sample, it suggests the level of the challenge.

The organisation plans to come up with detailed report of findings and share the observation of housing in Nepal and make recommendation after going through the statistics.

Engineers said most of the problems in urban areas stem from the growing trend among people to take clearance for one or two-storey house and later adding more flats without fulfilling the legal and technical requirements.

“There are of course problems with the old bricks and mud construction, but that’s not used too much today. The real problem is the number of people adding additional floors on houses not intended for additional floor,” said Scott Douglas, a structural engineer.

An initial study of the government found that most of the high rises destroyed during the earthquake had initially acquired clearance to build two or three-storey structures for residential use.

Homraj Acharya, country director for GFI, said a group of nine Americans and equal number of local engineers had provided free damage assessment service to 200 houses for one week. Acharya said they are deploying the engineers in cluster in various areas.

“They’re looking at as many houses as possible in a neighbourhood, and not just looking at the one who made the call.

A lot of times, people don’t know where to call or are too anxious to call, so we decided to take that approach so that as many people as possible have the benefit of the engineers’ experiences,” said Acharya.

The GFI has also submitted a detailed plan for stabilisation of Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square at the request of the Nepal government and Unesco.

Read the full article on the eKantipur website here.

Engineers Organized by BCN and GFI Work to Provide Damage Assessments to Nepal

Engineers Organized by BCN and GFI Work to Provide Damage Assessments to Nepal

American structural engineer (left) and GFI Nepal Country Director Homraj Acharya (right) inspecting buildings in Kathmandu Valley.

KATHMANDU, JUNE 2 - In the wake of the earthquake in Nepal and its subsequent aftershocks, many whose homes remain standing are still electing to take shelter in open space outside. Many homes and buildings have survived the disaster intact, save minor damages and fractures, but most of their inhabitants remain anxious about returning indoors without an evaluation of the structural integrity of their homes. Families are waiting outside in makeshift shelters for local engineers to conduct rapid structural assessments to determine if homes are habitable.

The Nepal Engineers’ Association, among others, whose engineers are providing rapid assessments of damage to homes, has yet to reach thousands of families. In addition, many families do not know what work can or should be done to repair their homes and, therefore, are left waiting for a detailed assessment and repair recommendations from the already overstretched Nepali engineers.

The Brick Clean Group Nepal (BCN) and the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) have organized two teams of eight engineers with experience conducting rapid and detailed assessments after natural disasters, such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand. In coordination with Nepal’s Ministry of Urban Development and Kathmandu Valley Development Authority, the teams of engineers arrived over the past two weeks and have covered 130 locations across the Kathmandu valley and Kavrepalanchok and Sindhupalchok districts including some of the areas most severely damaged by the earthquake.

To date, the engineers have conducted over 3,000 assessments, helping families, small business owners, students, teachers and medical teams return indoors with the peace of mind that their family, businesses, hospitals, schools and public buildings are safe. After buildings were assessed and found safe for operation, management was briefed on the next steps. The broadest possible scope of Nepali building styles have been assessed, from traditional mud-brick homes to recently engineered structures, to enable the engineers to provide a report to the Government of Nepal on common issues and challenges in current structures and recommendations on safe building construction in the future.

GFI and BCN, in conjunction with engineers from the NEA and MinErgy, have been working to assess upwards of 200 homes day in the Kathmandu Valley along with detailed assessment of large complexes such as hospitals. The work of the engineers has directly impacted an estimate of at least 75,000 people. GFI and BCN are committed to provide the technical engineering resources to assess Nepali homes and businesses affected by the quakes. Once the severity of damage is properly assessed, the next phase of reconstruction can begin to build Nepal back right.

by E. Jose Perales

GFI Works at World Heritage Site to Save Nepal’s Endangered Treasures

GFI Works at World Heritage Site to Save Nepal’s Endangered Treasures

Photo showing courtyard wall of royal palace of Hanuman Dhoka (above) leaning outward.

KATHMANDU, JUNE 2 - Inside the dangerously shattered walls of one of Kathmandu’s most important landmarks, the former royal palace of Hanuman Dhoka, treasures of the past have been trapped and unreachable since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25.

The Hanuman Dhoka palace and museum are an integral part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kathmandu’s central Durbar Square, but the quake caused the most destruction to heritage of any disaster in history, and the loss and damage was so extensive that no one knew how to make the sprawling five-acre complex with its now-buckled and cracked walls safe enough to get out the artifacts.

That’s when Global Fairness Initiative stepped up to the plate. A team of US structural engineers skilled in post-earthquake building assessment had just arrived in Kathmandu at the behest of GFI when we learned that Nepal’s Department of Archaeology and UNESCO needed a plan to stabilize the building and remove the artifacts. The GFI team included a structural engineer with global expertise in both earthquake damage and historic preservation, David Biggs, whose credits range from the World Trade Center to the tomb of King Midas in Gordion, Turkey.

At the request of UNESCO and the Government of Nepal, GFI went to work to create a plan to shore up Hanuman Dhoka before the ongoing series of aftershocks tumbled the walls or the impending monsoon poured through the gaping holes.

“We are very worried about this building,” said Christian Manhart, head of UNESCO in Kathmandu. “It has great importance for the cultural identity of the Nepali people, and it has a very important collection. This wing is now totally disintegrated.”

Most of the engineers with GFI’s response team were working from dawn to dusk to assess Nepal’s homes, colleges, hospitals and public buildings in the wake of the quake, assisting Nepal’s limited number of structural engineers, but a heritage team was also formed to answer the engineering challenges of Hanuman Dhoka.

Among the artifacts at risk if the building crumbled were the coronation throne used by generations of Nepal’s kings, a massive chaise longue-type affair, backed by heavy gilt coils and a canopy shaped as a nine-headed serpent, typically lifted by up to 10 people. Unfortunately it’s located on the third story of the most damaged wing of Hanuman Dhoka, along with a royal arsenal of guns, swords and a cannon and an ancient stone slab with the only inscription ever found that mentions the Kirat Dynasty, which ruled the Kathmandu Valley until around 200 BCE.

“(The inscription) is a very, very rare thing,” said archaeologist Bishnu Raj Karki, former Director-General of Nepal’s Department of Archaeology, who is directing the conservation of a major section of Hanuman Dhoka. “It can never be replaced. We have nothing else like it.”

The proposal developed by GFI became the first plan to stabilize the heritage site. GFI also crafted an alternative proposal to utilize shipping containers instead of bracing to allow artifacts to be retrieved safely. Based on the experience of New Zealand after its earthquake, that option was developed by GFI team member Jason Ingham, professor of engineering at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Ingham and Biggs worked on the heritage team with Nepali engineer Sanu Dangol of MinErgy, part of Brick Clean Group Nepal (BCN), GFI’s partner in the Better Brick Nepal (BBN) program to incentivize the production of bricks that are sustainable and free of child and bonded labor.

As of this writing, the Hanuman Dhoka Museum is working to implement the plans to rescue Nepal’s heritage before the rains begin.

“The engineers we brought are some of the best engineers in the world, with very precise kinds of expertise and skills, and they’ve worked day and night to use their skills to save our heritage at this time of overwhelming need,” said GFI-Nepal Country Director Homraj Acharya. “We’re very excited to be able to assist in this important effort and at this World Heritage Site, which is close to the heart of every Nepali and is part of the cultural heritage of the entire world.”

by Sally Acharya

Kathmandu Post Highlights Work of GFI and BCN Team of Engineers in Nepal

Kathmandu Post Highlights Work of GFI and BCN Team of Engineers in Nepal

American structural engineer Scott Douglas (left) inspects the house of Lalita Thapa (right) in Ekantakuna, Lalitpur. Photo by: Kathmandu Post photo

The Kathmandu Post has highlighted the work of a team of U.S. engineers organized by the Global Fairness Initiative and the Brick Clean Group Nepal to provide home and building inspections to the areas affected by the recent earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. The full text of the article can be viewed below.

KATHMANDU, MAY 18 - Lalita Thapa had been spending nights in a makeshift tent since the Great Quake that reduced thousands of buildings to rubble on April 25.

The four-storey house that her family built selling their ancestral property in Pokhara had withstood the quake when many other buildings in Ekantakuna area were pancaked.

But the house had suffered several minor cracks in the walls, passage and columns. The cracks and scores of aftershocks compelled the anxious Thapa family to move out to an open space for shelter.

As the days passed, the Thapas realised that theirs was not the only house to sustain such fractures. She found that many families who stayed out in the open for some days after the main shock had returned to their houses after consulting with engineers.

Thapa decided to consult professional engineers one week after the quake but she could not find one. She called everywhere and even enlisted her name in the Lalitpur Municipality office for engineers, to no avail.

Thapa’s ordeal ended on Sunday after Scott Douglas, an American structural engineer, thoroughly examined the cracks of her house before deeming it habitable. Upon getting answers to all their queries, the Thapa family was convinced that the house was safe to live in.

An increasing number of families like Thapa are returning to their houses after consultation with an engineer. Many others continue to live outside--in tents, vehicles and even under the open sky--due to the cracks in their houses, coupled with fears of another major quake.

Like most other house owners, Thapa was keen to get answers to question such as whether her house is safe to live, if there is something she could do to make it ductile and if the hairlines and cosmetic cracks in the walls and columns are something to worry about. “We feel relieved now. We will now live at home,” said Thapa.

“Her house has some minor cracks but no structural strength loss. The ground may have been settled up a couple of millimetre for some reasons to cause the cosmetic damage and hairlines. It’s usually serious when the wall sustains big diagonal cracks. When the wall loses its strength, the column has to take all the load and then it collapses in most cases,” said Douglas, who worked in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Thapa was suggested to make minor repairs in the damaged parts of the house.

Global Fairness Initiative (GFI), a non- working on post-disaster damage assessment in collaboration with Nepal Engineers’ Association, said most of the 500 buildings examined in Kathmandu Valley over the weekend were found safe to live in. The organisation has employed 16 structural engineers from the United States and several local engineers for the task.

“We thoroughly examine the damage and provide our initial assessment. We have returned hundreds of people to their homes as their houses are safe to live in,” said Homraj Acharya, country director of the GFI. His organisation has also been involved in assessing the damage at Basantapur Durbar Square in collaboration with Unesco and the Nepal government.

The NEA has also been providing the service to people in outside Kathmandu. The association’s recent random survey of around 2,500 building in Kathmandu Valley found that most of the houses are unsafe.

But several thousand people are still languishing in makeshift shelters as they have not found an engineer for consultation about the safety of their houses.

Nabin Shah of Kusunti, who was at the NEA office on Sunday looking for an engineer, told the Post that he could not find one despite visiting the association for many days.

“The NEA has some 100 engineers on the list but no one is available,” said Shah.

Though some 16,000 engineers have registered with the NEA, most have gone for overseas jobs creating a shortage of the most needed human resource at this time of need. There are only 400 structural engineers in Nepal.

Experts say there has been little damage to residential houses that had followed the building code, while others violating the building code had crumbled.

Read the full article on the Kathmandu Post website here.

GFI, Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation Call for Continued Assistance to Resilient Nepal

GFI, Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation Call for Continued Assistance to Resilient Nepal

Washington, DC (May 6, 2015) -- The Global Fairness Initiative and the Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation have continued their partnership to call for aid to Nepal and support for the organizations working on rescue and recovery in the quake-hit nation. As part of Latvia's stewardship of the European Year for Development, the Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation has been asked to highlight its development work throughout the world. The Foundation has taken this opportunity to draw attention to the need for continued support to Nepali organizations throughout the recovery process after last month's devastating earthquake.

Posting to the European Year for Development website, the Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation has released a call to its partners and every citizen of the world to join in expressing solidarity with Nepal and to support the relief organizations that are tackling the immediate needs of the Nepali people.

Boris Teterev, founder of the Boris and Inara Teterev Foundation and Goodwill Ambassador of the European Year of Development, stated "Foundation and GFI have had the honor of working alongside the exceptional people of this beautiful country. Their optimism and tireless work to create a more just and prosperous nation have truly inspired us. Even now, when hundreds of thousands of Nepalis struggle in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake, we have still heard a strong voice of hope and resilience from our friends and partners there. This country that is unconquered in history and unconquerable in spirit needs relief. The support is needed not only now but after the camera lenses turn away."

Read the full article on the europa.eu webpage in English or Latvian.