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New website to help check dwellings' earthquake resistance

TAIPEI -- People living in Taiwan are now just a few clicks away from finding out whether the buildings they live in can withstand the next big earthquake.

Taiwan's National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) on Tuesday unveiled the country's first website designed to educate local residents on how quake safe their homes really are.

The website has collected seismic data from around the nation and built a database of some 9,000 buildings the team has evaluated island-wide since 2000, said Chiou Tsung-chih, an assistant researcher at the NARL's National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering.

After entering basic information on the structure — such as the number of pillars and the height and width of its walls — users can get a “more conservative” analysis within two seconds, Chiou said.

The website does have its limitations, however. Only buildings of five stories or less that were constructed with steel and concrete, which represent about 70 percent of all residential buildings in Taiwan, can be assessed by the system, the researcher said.

Chiou's team is also working on assessing high-rise buildings, which he said was a mid-term goal.

The website also provides information about how to bolster a structure's construction and offers links to other useful websites such as professional technicians.

Aiming to promote the service and assessment model overseas, namely in Indonesia, Chiou said that his team is planning to develop an English version.

The center will also promote the website and its applications at local community colleges later this year, aiming to let more people gain a better understanding of the science, he said.

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