The recent tragedy in central Italy has again highlighted the nation’s shortcomings in regards to building safety standards and the immense challenge it faces to protect its beautiful but vulnerable historic buildings, and those who inhabit them. Most of Italy’s buildings were in fact erected prior to the existence of building codes, often with poor quality materials, and are therefore too weak to withstand strong seismic activity. Despite many devastating earthquakes over the last few decades, non-compliant buildings are still estimated at around 70%.
Building regulations are not always applied or respected, even in the event of restoration work or new buildings. The supreme court recently upheld the sentences against experts responsible for the renovation of student accommodation in L’Aquila, the collapse of which killed eight people in 2009. According to the latest news reports, the school in Amatrice, which partially collapsed in Wednesday’s quake, despite having been the subject of earthquake proofing only a few years ago, has now also been seized.
Buildings that correctly adhere to standards will likely suffer damage and crack but should not completely disintegrate, as was witnessed in this most recent earthquake.
Being the seismically active country that it is, and following yet another disaster of its kind, greater measures are once again being called for. The building code was in fact modified in 2008 and made provision for the strengthening of important historical structures but this did not unfortunately extend to smaller buildings.
The beauty of Italy lies also in its centuries-old buildings and its historic hillside villages, just like Amatrice. It is also for this reason that foreigners come from all over the world to experience Italy and even to purchase properties here. When deciding to undertake such an investment, it is necessary to evaluate more than just the aesthetic aspect and character of the place. It is vital, and indeed a duty, to discover how safe the building really is and if any additional works are required.
The aspects to investigate prior to the purchase of a property are indeed numerous and a technical survey is essential to verify issues such as the conformity of the property with planning regulations and cadastral registrations, the state of maintenance of the systems, the soundness of its structures and the area’s earthquake classification.
It is indeed at times like these that we realize, regulations and laws aside, how the safety of the building is of utmost importance to protect the investment and, more importantly, our lives. A serious and unavoidable responsibility also to all those family members, friends or tenants, who will at some point inhabit the property.
It is therefore extremely important to carry out an analysis of the structures before proceeding with a purchase and, in the event of any issues, an evaluation of any necessary works to provide adequate reinforcement and protection.
We hope the government will now introduce more comprehensive measures for all buildings, with suitable incentives to favor their execution. Some measures already exist but there is much more work to be done.
Adequate property insurance is also advisable. Insurance is not a legal requirement in Italy and only 1% of owners have earthquake insurance.
For the many foreigners who own properties and spend time in Italy, this is a beautiful experience, and we must ensure that this is always the case, even when mother nature reminds us that she always has the upper hand.
© Kate A. Taylor – Gianvito Cardone, Additaly Ltd. – all rights reserved
Additaly – Real Estate & Consulting
Via Bonifacio Lupi, 29 – 50129 Firenze (IT)
Tel. +39 055 7477618
7-10 Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, London, W1G 9DQ (UK)
Tel. +44 (0)2035297911