Multi-story buildings are also harder to ensure safety in earthquake country as compared to a single story building, given the same diligence and construction values.
Here's a very interesting article about the recent Christchurch quake:
"The collapse of the CTV building, which housed a local TV station, clinic and English-language school, was particularly shocking. It was built in 1986, 15 years after the Sylmar earthquake, and after codes had been changed in New Zealand and California to improve buildings' ability to withstand shaking. Yet the CTV building collapsed in a manner consistent with a brittle concrete building, said Thomas Heaton, professor of engineering seismology at Caltech.
"Experts both in Christchurch and Los Angeles said such buildings are worrisome because it's so difficult for people inside to survive if large slabs of concrete fall on top of them."
The lesson is not that we need to avoid this or that type of building (this time), but that EVERY quake and disaster brings new lessons, lessons that come at the price of death and terrible loss. And no matter how much we think we know and how advanced we think we are and how safe we assure the public we can make the buildings, we always THINK we're smarter than we really are.
Our kids deserve better than "we never could have expected that" here, as they are experiencing right now in Japan. We have a choice here with our high schools. We are spending money to improve the schools. We deserve at least a re-examination of the direction that is forcing expensive buildings on us to create less effective and supportive campuses that are a far greater risk to them if our administrators and the seismic standard du jour turns out not to be as smart as we expect.
Our kids deserve our erring on the side of safety and reducing the systemic challenges to their academic and social success. Our families deserve an open and honest discussion about these issues.