Peru is located in a seismic zone where the South American Plate moves toward the sea over the Nazca Plate causing earthquakes as a result of the thrust faulting on the interface of the two plates. The lack of expensive safe and equitable urban development creates a disparity with whom is most affected. According to Volcano Discovery, Peru endured 81 quakes in May of 2020. Over a 90 day span, the chart below maps the number of quakes, their severity, and time. With the exception of an occasional break in seismic energy, Peruvians live with earthquakes as a daily condition. Dr. Nicos Makris, a Fellow in the Hunt Institute, and a research team at SMU collaborate to form a team in the Global Development Lab to address this pressing issue. The in-country partner is Dr. Marcial Blondet who has dedicated over thirty years to researching the effects of seismic activity on masonry and adobe construction in Peru.

All projects in the GDL address one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). This project address the eleventh UNSDG which seeks to ensure that growth in housing and urban development is safe, equitable, and environmentally conscious. UN Target 11.5 which states, “By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters…with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations” (1). This report will focus on seismic protection solutions for confined masonry urban housing. Developing countries are estimated to account for 95% of imminent urban expansion, so disaster-protected infrastructure is vital in urban areas of the world (2).

Kostas Kalfas (Ph.D. student and researcher), Corrie A. Harris (Portfolio Manager), JuliaGrace Walker (Undergraduate Project Manager), Sam Borton (Undergraduate Research Analysis), and Dr. Nicos Makris.

Even middle-class urban residents in Peru’s urban environment often reside in poorly constructed confined masonry houses which, in the case of a severe earthquake, would likely collapse. Professional construction with skilled engineer approved designs are expensive and beyond reach for the majority of Peruvians. For this reason, the seismic protection market is increasingly narrowing its focus to low-cost solutions. One of the goals of this research is to evaluate existing low-cost propositions and to what extent they would provide a feasible option for the majority in Peru (3). Finding that even “low-cost” solutions are out of reach for most middle-class residents, Dr. Makris makes an alternate proposition. Rocking isolation offers great potential as an innovative and economical seismic protection alternative, but it has yet to be implemented as low-cost housing reinforcement. Makris’ emerging system of seismic protection could fill a gap in the market as it would provide a sufficiently low-cost accessible manner of protecting confined masonry homes.

Sam Borton, Undergraduate Research Analyst in the Institute, greatly contributed to this article with his market analysis of low-cost seismic protection. The complete analysis will be released in a future post. Stay tuned to read more!

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  1. About the Sustainable Development Goals – United Nations Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from
  2. Cities – United Nations Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from
  3. Blondet, M., & Loaiza, C. (2020). Vulnerabilidad Sísmica de las Construcciones en el Perú: Informe Preliminar. Lecture presented in Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú: Departamento de Ingeniería.