Engineers and scientists disagree

The failure of a state agency such as OASP to determine on an official basis just how a microzonal study should be made obviously has consequences with regard to quality and use. «While the general specifications already exist, there is no ministerial decree, nor even a text on which all those involved agree,» explained Efthymios Lekkas, a professor of dynamic tectonics and applied geology at Athens University. The lack of a legal framework has left a dangerous vacuum. «We need precise specifications and procedures, otherwise anyone can call their work ‘microzonal,’» said Giorgos Stavrakakis. There are several reasons for the State’s inability to draw up a framework for seismic studies. First of all, there are differing scientific points of view regarding the substance of the matter. «In Greece, all microzonal studies, all examples taken into consideration, are based on the horizontal movement of earth during an earthquake, as occurs in America and Japan,» explained Panayiotis Karydis, director of the National Technical University’s seismic laboratory. «The problem in Greece, however, is more from vertical earth movements, which are more dangerous and should not be ignored,» he added. The most important problems, however, are caused by a dispute that has been going on for years between engineers and geoscientists. «Some organizations are a state within a state and monopolize microzonal studies, ignoring seismologists and geologists,» said Manolis Skordylis, seismology lecturer at Thessaloniki University. «Microzonal studies should be clearly oriented toward providing technical information for the design of all kinds of buildings. They are not simply ‘rules,’» said K. Pitilakis, head of soil engineering and foundations at Thessaloniki’s school of civil engineering. Debate is not restricted to the precise determination of the content of a microzonal study and the role of each expert. The results are also in doubt much of the time. After the 1986 quake in Kalamata, a microzonal study was commissioned. «A very cursory study was made which did not result in the classification of zones according to the seismic risk,» said G. Koukis, professor of technical geology at Patras University. One reason was that the research groups involved could not manage to work together. «There were 23 independent studies. OASP twice tried to evaluate them but never succeeded. Therefore, there was no result,» added Taziarchis Papadopoulos, an associate professor for applied geophysics at Athens University. In Iraklion, there was a result, but it has been called into doubt. «Unfortunately, these days everyone claims to be making comprehensive microzonal studies, with the result that doubtful information is being given to engineers. There is the mistaken idea that an area is then protected from seismic activity. Then there are those who see it as a way of making money,» said Akis Tselentis, seismic laboratory director at Patras University. «A classic example of sheer waste, perhaps because of poor coordination, is the microzonal study of Iraklion, which cost 600 million drachmas, and the results were not what were expected,» said Papadopoulos. «A lot of money was spent, but seven organizations – including the universities of Athens and Thessaloniki, the Geodynamic Institute and the Institute for Mining and Geological Exploration (IGME) – bought equipment that they could use in future. The result of the research was a minimum package of specifications regarding microzonal studies, which was one of the conditions set by the European Union for funding the project,» said Papadopoulos. Yet even if a microzonal map of a town is carried out properly, there are still no guarantees, as there is no law forcing engineers to carry them out. «Results of these studies have a political cost,» said G. Ioakeimidis, mayor of Rendi. «Unfortunately, I do not know many people willing to tell people that they cannot build in a certain area.» This is the situation regarding the seismic protection of buildings in Europe’s most seismically active country.