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Architects offer stability to quake homeless

EARTHQUAKE victims living in temporary shelters in Sichuan Province say they are eager to move into the new buildings designed by professional architects from across the country.

"People are happy after seeing pictures of the beautiful designs," said Lu Xilin, professor of civil and structural engineering at Shanghai's Tongji University.

Lu headed a team of six architecture experts sent to evaluate housing damage three days after the massive earthquake that struck Sichuan on May 15 last year.

"There were collapsed buildings everywhere and those still standing were in danger of collapse at any moment," Lu said. "Survivors were living in camps and nobody would dare to go back to their houses because they didn't know which were safe."

The new Xiang'e Primary School in Dujiangyan City, designed by Lu and his team, was built from renewable wood donated by a Canadian company.

The wooden buildings are energy efficient, have been lined with fire-proof material, have concrete foundations and should withstand earthquakes.

Despite the high-end technology, most buildings just need to be built according to existing codes in order to resist quakes and aftershocks, Lu said.

"There wouldn't have been so many devastated buildings and such human tragedy in the quake-hit area if all the buildings had been designed and built according to China's housing standards."

Lu said many collapsed buildings had poor engineering in the province especially in rural towns and villages due to a lack of building knowledge or funds.

Experts risked their lives to check whether houses were safe to move back into or should be pulled down.

"You bring courage to us," Du Jiuquan, director of the county's construction bureau, told the team when it arrived.


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