Welcome to the Housner Fellows blog

Check back frequently to follow their progress on the group and individual projects.

Housner Fellows Visit to Ghana 8/29/2013

Day Four: Meeting Ghana Earthquake Society (GhES) Members

Fourth day of the Housner Fellows was another successful one in their visit to Ghana. This day marked the end of their task as some of the Fellows will be leaving on Friday. This meeting was very important as it created a platform where the GhES will take over mantle when the Housner Fellow completes their group project in Ghana.

The meeting with the Ghana Earthquake Society came up with constructive ideas from both the Fellows and members of GhES. It was a wrap up of activities the Fellows have done in Ghana, below are some of the discussed ideas.

–  Need to come up with a legally binding design code for Ghana

–  Need for outreach to universities & introduce topics related to earthquake engineering

–  Need to shift to project management / cross – functional approach rather than segmental.

After the meeting each Fellow was given a KENTE (traditional Ghana piece of cloth) from the Ghana Earthquake Society.

In the afternoon the Fellows had another successful meeting in which they discussed progress on their individual projects. It was nice to hear how each Fellow is / has contributed positively to the overall goal of George Housner “Advocating for Seismic Safety” in their respective countries.

Later during the day the Fellows went for sightseeing across Accra.
Day 4_01

Day 4_02

Day 4_03

Day 4_04

Day 4_06

Day 4_05

Day 4_08

Day 4_07

Housner Fellows Visit to Ghana 8/28/2013

Day Three: Design & construction collaboration

Today was our third full day of meeting with various seismic safety stakeholders here in Accra – this time focusing on our architect, engineer, and contractor colleagues. We began the day with a morning workshop at AESL (Architectural & Engineering Services Limited). Our intent of the workshop was to explore the post-earthquake role of schools while also identifying potential ways to improve the seismic performance of new designs. Ali and Cale began the workshop with a brief presentation related to past earthquake performance of construction types similar to those currently used in Ghana. This included non-ductile concrete performance observed in ChiChi, Kashmir, and Christchurch among others. We then had an interactive conversation many of the architects and engineers with AESL and left the meeting feeling quite satisfied that we had all learned from each other. A particularly rewarding moment of the morning was when one of the younger AESL structural engineers suggested a simple solution to the captive column issue would be to create a gap by placing styrofoam between infill walls and the adjacent columns.

After the workshop, a couple of AESL engineers joined us for lunch at a restaurant inside of the landmark National Theatre before we departed for our afternoon meeting with the Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors of Ghana. The ABCECG office was across town and on our way we passed one of the largest markets in Accra. Unfortunately we did not have time to stop for shopping – perhaps tomorrow!
We found the contractors to be very interested in improving the standard of practice and ensuring consistent levels of quality across all regions and all projects in Ghana. Carlien presented their president with an EERI pin and encouraged them to become active in the research institute and the newly-formed Ghana Earthquake Society.

Our evening concluded with a technical lecture at the Ghana Institution of Engineering where Ali and Cale shared lessons from past earthquakes and Kate introduced GEM (Global Earthquake Model) and their goal of earthquake resilience worldwide.

One encouraging note is that our presence here has been noticed by the local media. Carlien was featured on the news last night and the NADMO meeting and ShakeOut were mentioned in a few print news outlets. Tomorrow we will meet with the Ghana Earthquake Society to brainstorm seismic safety initiatives and strategize how to advance them with the collaboration of the various stakeholder groups we have met so far this week.

Day 3-Pic 01

AESL workshop

Day 3-Pic 02

Lunch at National Theatre with AESL engineers

Day 3-Pic 03

Contractors Association

Pic 3-04

Market in Accra

Day 3-05

Technical lecture – Ali and Cale present on lessons from past earthquakes and Kate introduces GEM

Housner Fellows Visit to Ghana 8/27/2013

Day Two:  i) Workshop with NADMO; ii) Leadership Lecture; and  iii) Meeting with the Deputy Minister, Education

The second day in Ghana was a very busy day for Housner fellows. Participation at the workshop with National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) was more than our expectation. More than 100 participants joined in from NADMO, administrators from various schools in Accra and members of Ghana Earthquake Society. The presentations from Housner fellows (Hassan, Ali and Cale) were very well appreciated. And an interesting group discussion followed the presentations with all participants enthusiastically participating and sharing their experiences and concerns about earthquakes. The discussions were very well moderated by Kate.

The leadership lecture delivered by Lucy was organised by WINE (Association of Women Engineers in Ghana) and was very well received. It was a very motivating interaction. Engineers keenly listened and asked some interesting questions. And all this was accompanied with an excellent lunch.

Next on the agenda of Housner fellows was to have a meeting at the Ministry of Education who lays out policies for all the schools in Ghana. We were very well received by the Deputy Minister, Education and his team of officials. Very concerned about earthquake safety of their school children, they keenly listened to Housner fellows. Appreciating the school project undertaken by Housner fellows, the Minister hoped there would be a way to carry forward this work in long term.

And the day ended only after we all received an extremely warm welcome by Carlien’s lovely family at her beautiful home. It was such a pleasant evening with Mr. Nabil (Carlien’s husband), a great animal lover and a chess player and Zenoya (Carlien’s daughter), a famous and celebrated model. Of course, all the conversation was accompanied by some excellent snacks made from yam, beans and plantains.

Here are some pics of the day.


Morning workshop with members from NADMO, the Ghana Earthquake Society, and administrators from local schools in Accra.


Presentation from Housner Fellow, Cale.


Following the presentations, Kate moderates the discussion over earthquake experience and concerns.


Enthusiastic audience participation in the discussion moderated by Kate.


Lucy delivers a leadership lecture, organised by the Association of Women Engineers in Ghana.


A delicious lunch during Lucy’s lecture.


Afternoon meeting with the Ministry of Education to discuss earthquake safety improvements in schools.


The Housner Fellows meet with the Deputy Minister, who is very concerned with keeping the children safe.



Meeting Carlien’s family in her beautiful home.

Housner Fellows Visit to Ghana 8/26/2013

Day One: Meeting the Chiefs

Housner Fellows spent the first day of our visit to Ghana following the ancient tribal custom of ‘meeting the chiefs.’ We introduced ourselves and presented small gifts of gratitude to: Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE), engineering firm Architecture and Engineering Services, Ltd. (AESL), and the Consulting Engineers Association. We were given warm hospitality, and took lots of photos. We were also given a gracious and eye-opening tour of a 3-story high school classroom building for 600 students that is under construction. So far we have found our colleagues to be interested in earthquake safety and eager to improve the engineering and construction practice.

This evening we are busy preparing for a meeting and presentation tomorrow with the Ghanaian National Disaster Management Organization together with school administrators.

Tasty highlights include ripe fried plantains, okra stew, and banku, moist bread made of fermented, steamed corn, a bit like polenta.


Day1_3Housner Fellows Cale R. Ash, Syed Mohammed Ali, Hassan Steven Mdala, Kate Stillwell, Vivek Rawal, and Carlien D. Bou-Chedid arrive in Ghana.

Day1_4(From left to right) Vivek Rawal, Syed Mohammed Ali, Carlien D. Bou-Chedid, Cale R. Ash, Kate Stillwell, Hassan Steven Mdala.

Day1_5Tour of a three-story school under construction.

Day1_7Meeting with GhIE, AESL, and the Consulting Engineers Association.



Day1_8A warm welcome by ‘the chiefs’ to Ghana.

Day1_6Housner Fellows with members of local engineering organizations.

Housner Fellows Group Project

With the dust now settled on the decision to undertake a project to produce a Toolkit for Earthquake‐Safe School Construction, the search is now on for a region to pilot the project. Each Fellow has selected a region to research for its suitability. As part of this research, Fellows are considering whether working in the region is feasible and whether it will be interesting for the Fellows.

Alongside the search for a suitable region, Fellows have also been trying to identify “champions” within each region with whom they can work. This has led to Fellows contacting organizations like Save the Children, Geo Hazards International and other experts to find out which regions they are working in and whether there are any projects that will be “a good fit” for what the Fellows have in mind. The process has brought up a number of issues. For instance, Fellows had to consider whether to expand the scope of the project to include other hazards but decided to focus on their area of expertise, earthquakes.

Regions being considered include Republic of Georgia, India, Colombia in South America, Pakistan and Ghana and preliminary investigations have revealed that:

  • School construction in the Republic of Georgia is mostly undertaken by government. Current new construction is minimal and there may be little appetite for retrofitting schools as a new government is in place that is looking to make cuts in expenditure.
  • In Ghana a few organizations like USAID, DFID have undertaken some school construction in the past using the standard designs for government schools. The possibility of using one of these organizations to put pressure on government to improve school seismic safety is to be investigated.
  • School construction in Pakistan is also by Government but there is some funding provided by organizations like the World Bank, UN-Habitat, UNDP, USAID and further investigations are being carried out to look for potential partners.
  • Colombia has well developed building codes and although they have difficulties implementing these in rural and un-recognized areas, other regions appear to have a greater need.
  • In India, research is narrowing in on Aizawl in Mizoram province where Geo Hazards International is due to begin a new project.

The selection of a region will help determine a building type or types that will be the focus of recommendations. It is the expectation that once developed, it should be possible to adapt the Tool kit for use in other regions.

2013 EERI Annual Meeting Organizing Committee update

For my individual Housner Fellow project I decided to take an active role with organizing the 2013 EERI Annual Meeting. The Local Organizing Committee is in the proverbial home stretch in planning the 2013 Annual Meeting technical sessions and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts.

Serving as co-chair of this committee has definitely been a learning experience for me and I want to thank my co-chair Scott Miles and all of the committee for their hard work compiling the program. Going into the process, I really wanted to provide sessions that relate to a local audience as well as touching on national and international topics. We have sessions on tsunami risk and vulnerable buildings, both very relevant to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. And we also have sessions on resilience and sustainability – both are topics of national significance that will continue to shape the field of earthquake engineering.

Each session organizer is currently working with their respective panelists and speakers to arrive at a cohesive and well-coordinated session. The pre-conference workshop planning is nearly complete and we are finishing up the last details for the three tours which conclude the meeting. Please visit http://2013am.eeri.org/ to register and learn more about the program. While there, don’t forget to register for the Christchurch Earthquakes pre-conference workshop.

Earthquake engineering is necessarily a broad field and we have done our best to create a program with the breadth to interest all EERI members while offering enough substance to engage our many technical experts. I hope everyone finds the program relevant and interesting and I look forward to seeing you in Seattle next month.

Happy New Year!

Meet the Housner Fellows and take a look at their projects

Welcome to the first post in the Housner Fellows blog. This blog has been developed for the 2012 Fellows. Here you will be able to follow their progress on their projects. Brief descriptions of these projects follow:

Group Picture Kate Stillwell leading a discussion
Group photo of the Housner Fellows with Lucy Arendt at the EERI Annual Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. Front Row: (Left) Lucy Arendt, Lindsey Maclise, Kate Stillwell, Hassan Mdala, Carlien Bou-Chedid, Vivek Rawal. Back Row: (Left) Syed Ali, Danielle Hutchings, Cale Ash. Kate Stillwell leading a discussion at the Housner Institute held in Asilomar, California, June 16-21.



Toolkit for Earthquake‐Safe School Construction: Best Practices and Identification of Barriers

This project will produce a set of resources for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to ensure earthquake safety in the construction and renovation of school buildings worldwide. Fellows will partner with various NGOs who build schools in developing countries and need clearer seismic guidelines to provide for school safety. While some resources are currently in existence in various forms, they do not meet all the needs of the NGOs building schools, particularly in developing countries. In particular, there is a need to identify and remove barriers that prevent schools from being built with earthquake resistance. The Fellows will serve as a bridge between partner NGOs and industry-developed documents and resources.


Syed Mohammed Ali, GFDRR—EERI Fellow

Ali is working on a component of the Concrete Coalition Project of EERI in which he: (a) leads the EERI student chapter in Peshawar in contributing field data to the project regarding RC buildings that were damaged during the major 2005 Pakistan earthquake; and (b) meets with various stakeholders to identify policy issues that circumvent design and field implementation.

Cale Ash

For his individual project, Cale is taking an active role within EERI by serving as chair of the 2013 Annual Meeting Local Organizing Committee. The meeting, by developing a regionally-relevant program and attracting key stakeholders, can advance the conversation with regards to earthquake risk and mitigation options. By serving a key role for EERI, he will demonstrate that younger members can contribute to the institute’s activities.

Carlien Bou-Chedid, GFDRR—EERI Fellow

Carlien’s project will seek to introduce confined masonry construction for use in Ghana. The aim will be to reach all those who may be involved in the construction of homes and educate them on the right way to build for earthquakes. Those to be targeted will include potential home owners, artisans, technicians and building professionals. An Illustrated Guide will be prepared by adapting information contained in existing documents on confined masonry construction. A 15 minute Documentary/ Training Film will also be prepared on confined masonry construction.

Danielle Hutchings

Danielle’s project will build a local government toolkit to improve community resilience. Local governments recognize the importance of planning for earthquakes but limited resources and small staff make this a challenge. San Francico Bay Area elected officials have asked for direction on specific actions and policies they can implement now to improve their resilience. Local governments also want identification of specific actions they can take after an earthquake to more quickly recover and prepare for future earthquakes. These actions and policies include simple, concrete items such as sample ordinances, checklists, best practices, and lessons learned from recent earthquakes and other disasters.

Lindsey Maclise

Lindsey’s project is part of a larger collaborative Global Quake Science and Safety Initiative for Girls. Teachers Without Borders (TWB), in conjunction with EERI, USGS and GEM, is developing a “Global Quake Science and Safety Initiative for Girls” Program to educate young girls in developing nations subject to seismic events. The initial phase of this project will develop teaching tools and a curriculum for educating the girls in the classroom. Following this initial phase, the girls will go out into their community for hands on research; including documentation of the various building types in their neighborhoods. Lindsey’s role will be to lead the curriculum development portion of the project for EERI.

Hassan Mdala, GFDRR—EERI Fellow

Hassan’s individual project will be to develop a series of Earthquake Safety Posters in English and his local language. These posters will build on recently-prepared (by the Malawi Geological Survey Department) Earthquake Safety Guidelines that are being distributed to the responsible government departments and non-governmental organizations. Most of the people in Malawi know nothing about earthquake safety issues, so by presenting basic information in pictorial form, Hassan hopes to begin to increase awareness of the earthquake risk in his country.

Vivek Rawal

Vivek’s individual project is to develop a web portal and online academy for seismic safety. He is proposing to set up an online web-based educational initiative that can bring high quality short training videos to a large number of engineers in developing countries who do not have resources or access to such high quality teaching.

Kate Stillwell

Kate’s project will further develop an earthquake ratings system for buildings, by facilitating issuance of pilot ratings and proposing a rating system for houses. In 2011 the US Resiliency Council (usrc.org) was founded as a vehicle for implementing earthquake ratings (as part of their “CoRE” ratings). USRC is modeled after the US Green Building Council: it does not generate ratings itself, but rather accredits professionals to generate ratings and then issues / certifies those ratings. Kate’s project includes key startup tasks necessary for ratings and the USRC to become established.