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Mary C. Comerio

Professor and Chair, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley

Department of Architecture
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1800

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: (510) 642-4942
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When it comes to rehabilitation of buildings, one size does not fit all. The ideal model is sensitive to physical and economic reality. For funding, government could link building codes to a bond issue or collect a tax at the time of sale and give half to the buyer for seismic upgrades. In Chile, the government imposed a temporary tax on mining and other areas to pay for pubic works, schools and hospitals. Temporary shelters were built on home sites to keep the residents close at hand to oversee the process. Communities stayed intact. I have also seen good and not-so-good insurance models. In Christchurch, New Zealand, which was repeatedly rocked by earthquakes, all were heavily insured. By comparison, few have earthquake insurance in the United States; the insurance is expensive and not very good. In California, only 10 percent are insured. That means we're going to require a lot of private money for housing recovery.


Mary C. Comerio is a professor of architecture and environmental design at University of California, Berkeley. As an architect, she focuses her attention on how economic, social, technical and political realities can be blended to encourage building rehabilitation in areas prone to earthquakes. She looks for answers that help cities rebuild without losing population, jobs and social network.

She is the author of "Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery." An advisor to the United Nation's Environmental Programme, she recently led reconnaissance teams to both earthquakes in New Zealand and Chile.

Her current project is funded by the National Science Foundation. Her team has inventoried 1933-1977 concrete buildings in Los Angeles. Using NEES shake tables to computer modeling at Purdue, Minneapolis and Berkeley, she is evaluating different building designs, materials and configurations of columns and beams. The goal is to categorize them so city officials and owners will understand the risk factors and remedies for each group, leading to better safety and deployment of financial resources. Results are expected by the end of the year.