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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Building on strong foundations

Building on strong foundations

Experts in Cambodia’s architecture and construction sector said that the foundation drilling for high-rise buildings in Phnom Penh is not necessarily strong enough to withstand earthquakes, but the lack of attention paid to the construction quality is a greater concern.

Tous Sapheung, the dean of the Architecture and Construction College of Panasastra University of Cambodia, said that currently Cambodia does not have the building standards to match Japan or Russia, and construction quality is still limited. He added that if Cambodia followed these two countries, it would be good, but Cambodia follows the models of US and Germany, which have never experienced earthquakes, and Khmer architects often complete their studies in those countries.

He said, “Even though Cambodia is wave-like with mountainous layers for protection, I believe that in the future there may be earthquake in Cambodia, so we must enhance the construction quality from now on.” He added that the government should not ignore the issue, but should conduct a thorough review before issuing any construction permits.

He said that four years ago, an earthquake in the south of Vietnam had an effect on Cambodia, where some areas were shaken, “so we cannot say that there will be no earthquake.” He added that what should be considered is what happened in Iran 10 years ago, when an earthquake killed half a million people and also destroyed many ancient cities. Recently, an earthquake damaged much of Japan and Russia. He said, “If these things happen, can high residential or office space buildings hold?”

Sapheung said that buildings in other countries are cracked or tilted when the earthquake is 8 on the Richter Scale, but in Cambodia, an earthquake of 5 on the Richter Scale would be enough to level all buildings.

He said, “Nearly 90 per cent of buildings did not build their foundations deep into the hard layer. Such houses will collapse first.” He added that the hard layer in Phnom Penh is at 25 to 47 meters, because the land is soft.

Lao Tepseiha, the deputy director general of construction and the deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Architecture Association, said that the ministry has reviewed all construction projects very thoroughly. If investors do not follow the Ministry’s policy, they violate the laws.

He said that the drilling for high rises will not cause earthquake or collapses. He added, “The drilling does not leave a hole, but are filled with concreting cement only. High rises must build the foundation like this.”

He added that an investor cannot determine their investment on their own, but must be done in conjunction with architects, engineers, electrical and water engineers. He said if the investment is not carefully studied, that investment will not be successful.

Lim Soktay, the dean of Architecture and Construction College of Norton University, said “Cambodia’s land is better than Thailand’s land. The soil in Bangkok is soft and poor. But in Phnom Penh, the soil is strong. Actually, in the Tuol Kork area, we can build the foundation deep, at five to 15 metres, but at the riverside, deep down to 30 metres. In Thailand the depth is twice that to prevent collapse.”

He added that high-rise buildings must be built with good foundations to prevent the buildings being damaged in the case of natural disasters such as storms, earthquake and collapse. He added that there are many kinds of foundations.  “The buildings are strong based on the foundation and construction layout plan.” However he said building quality in Cambodia is “limited.”

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