Is Ryerson prepared for an earthquake?

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By Emma Prestwich
News Editor

Buildings on Ryerson’s campus are diverse both structurally and age-wise, and would face different issues if an earthquake were to strike the city.

While Toronto is a Zone 1, the lowest earthquake risk-level, it was upgraded from Zone 0 after an earthquake in California last year.

Reza Kianoush, a civil engineering professor who specializes in concrete buildings, said that the seismic aspect isn’t a primary concern with campus buildings, because the risk of collapse or damage is so low.

“Even with last year’s [5.0 magnitude earthquake], the buildings didn’t get a lot of cracking and collapse,” said Kianoush.

Simon De Vincenzo, project architect at Campus Planning and Facilities, said the university has to ensure every structure on campus meets Ontario Building Code standards before receiving a building permit.

“We have to have documents stamped saying these are structurally sound buildings,” he said.

According to Julia Hanigsberg, vice-president administration and finance, the newer buildings on campus, like the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, the Ted Rogers School of Management and Eric Palin Hall have all been either built to the latest building code standards or have been renovated to meet them.

The building code was last updated in 2006, and Di Vincenzo said revisions are upcoming in the next few months.

“If it’s a historical building, it should be ‘beefed [up]’ for seismic response,” said Hesham Marzouk, chair of Ryerson’s civil engineering department and a structural engineer.

He said old buildings have to be upgraded every time the building code changes, which is generally every five to 10 years.

It is unknown whether the older buildings on campus have been updated to the latest standards, which Hanigsberg said deal more with seismic stability. Marzouk said while the civil engineering department would like to do ‘seismic evaluations’ of campus buildings, they have to talk to the consultants the university has contracted out to manage each building.

According to Hanigsberg, the majority of buildings on campus have emergency generators to ensure that emergency systems (emergency lighting, smoke and heat detectors, etc.) keep working if main power shuts down.

George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre

The building opened in 2005 and while the four-storey structure isn’t at high risk for earthquake damage, it was built with several seismic reinforcements. Hesham Marzouk, who worked on plans for the building, said the floor is equipped with reinforced beams that are connected throughout , and the building is fitted with plastic hinges that can absorb the energy.

Jorgensen Hall

The university’s main administrative building was built in 1971 and is the tallest structure on campus at 14 storeys. The Eyeopener was unable to reach the consultants responsible for this building, so it’s unknown whether it has been built to the latest building code. But Kianoush said while last summer’s quake didn’t have any structural effect on buildings, a stronger one might cause some damage, but no collapse.

Rogers Communications Centre

The journalism, new media, and radio and television arts building was opened in 1992 and is only three storeys, which is low in comparison to a high-rise. It also has a curved shape, and framed by a taller, rectangular frame, as opposed to a tall, thin building like Jorgensen Hall. It’s unknown whether the RCC has been updated to latest building code standards.

Oakham House

The historic structure was built in 1848 and is one of Toronto’s oldest buildings, in addition to being the oldest building on campus. It’s unknown whether the building has been renovated to meet the newest building code, which was updated 150 years after its construction. But it is attached to the Student Campus Centre, which was completed in 2005 and would help absorb some of the energy if an earthquake were to hit.

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