Notes on the Seismic Adequacy of Vernacular Buildings

Vernacular constructions represent a very large share of the built environment. Being, by definition, nonengineered constructions, they are the result of ancient traditions, improved with time as a response to the requirements of their social and physical environment. Consequently, they are well-fitted solutions to the demands of their social and natural environment and possess a certain built-in fixity, only modified as a result of persistent and extraordinary circumstances. Strong earthquakes are indeed extraordinarily disruptive events, but they also have large return periods, making it difficult to learn from them in short time spans without the tools offered by modern engineering research and design, absent, by definition, from the vernacular. Consequently, in many cases these constructions have proven inadequate to resist strong earthquakes and they can be held responsible for most of the resulting human fatalities caused by major quakes, demanding an effective participation of the earthquake engineering community.