45179_towardssaferschoolconstruction_0 2015 - Page 69

Planning school retrofits through rapid visual assessment Faculty and students of a Salvadoran engineering program, along with researchers from the University of Udine in Italy, pilot-tested the VISUS tool as a rapid visual assessment methodology in 2014. VISUS is an expertbased methodology that organises and collects rapid visual assessment information for school facilities through a tabletbased application. It then uses collected data to judge the overall safety of school facilities. VISUS has been designed to quickly aggregate data through photographic evidence and prioritise the most appropriate action for achieving school safety based on risk and cost. These actions are listed as nothing, repair, retrofit or replacement. congruence of the collected data. An algorithm then rated school building on a 1-5 star system ranked by risk and retrofit cost. VISUS was able to effectively train and immediately rely on local students and professors for site visits because of its rigorous review protocol. By producing detailed and functional pictorial evidence, the oversight could be exported off-site, increasing speed and reducing costs. Even though El Salvador has a relatively robust university system, civil engineering students are not required to take courses in evaluating existing buildings for seismic safety. For one month, VISUS developers from the University of Udine in Italy, together with UNESCO personnel, communicated with a Salvadoran professor who spearheaded the pilot project. He provided pictures from previous earthquakes and information detailing the technical aspects of typical school construction in El Salvador. Over time, this initial contact snowballed into a steering group, which maintained the project throughout its lifespan. The VISUS pilot project assessed school buildings in the departments of San Salvador, La Libertad and La Paz. Ultimately five groups of three university students and a professor visually assessed 100 buildings in 10 days. The VISUS evaluation of the school took as little as a half an hour and occasionally as long as three hours. When school staff were available to guide the team, the evaluation process was much faster. SECTION III: PLANNING After establishing a base of operations at the University of El Salvador, the VISUS developers trained more than 60 people to perform the assessment, including personnel from the MoE, Engineers Associations and a small team of 15 students and 8 professors. The first half of the threeday training was in the classroom learning the concepts of rapid visual assessment and the VISUS tablet application for collecting data. In the latter half of the training, the trainees got hands-on experience in the field. A day was added for evidence-based photography so experts could verify the team’s assessments after the fact. Personnel from the MoE, engineering associations, students and professors of civil engineering practice rapid visual assessment of school buildings to determine which are most vulnerable to earthquakes. Photo: Jair Torres/UNESCO The VISUS methodology could be divided into three broad chronological sections: characterisation, evaluation and prescription for school safety upgrades. Teams used tablets to photograph structural and non-structural characteristics of schools and then match what they saw to a set of pre-defined alternatives. The methodology related each alternative to different damage levels the school would likely experience in an earthquake. The newly trained surveying team did not always have sufficient expertise to correctly perform the matching. However, the photo documentation was sent to a scientific committee who vetted on-the-ground data, filling in any gaps in experience. This double-checking helped verify the 60