Stephen Tobriner, Heyday Books, Berkeley 2006. Reviewed by Roger Bilham

After every major earthquake nowadays, a SWAT team of engineers saturates the epicentral region armed with cameras and notebooks to record the story of what went wrong—and more importantly, what went right—with structures exposed to violent shaking. They must move fast to document vital evidence before it is lost to repair or demolition. Successes are incorporated into new building practices, and the construction industry is alerted to failed methods.

In Chapter 8 of Steven Tobriner's superb book on the nuts and bolts of San Francisco's buildings, he leads an imaginary...

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