Earthquake engineering in developing countries

Bristol is a world leader in earthquake engineering. Our researchers work in the lab and in the field, in multi-disciplinary teams. The aim is to build seismic resilience in developing countries and ultimately to save lives.

‌Earthquakes pose a particular risk in developing countries where building materials are limited by cost and availability. On top of the physical threat of collapse, the fear of unsafe buildings can be a barrier to education and opportunity. This is why our earthquake engineers work closely with earth scientists, social scientists, NGOs and those at risk from earthquakes to develop solutions that will work in the local context.

Our world-class lab facilities enable novel large-scale testing here in the UK, alongside on-the-ground inspections and field tests.

The SAFER Schools project is a perfect example of this collaborative approach. It marries cutting edge research and laboratory-based testing with co-produced solutions developed with and by communities in Nepal. The team knew that for the project to succeed the solutions had to be affordable, locally-sourced and acceptable to local people. They worked with local experts, the Government of Nepal, the Universities of Kathmandu and Tribhuvan, Arup International Development, NSET, Save the Children as well as teachers, parents and school pupils in Nepal.

The researchers learned a lot from the local experts and changed their plans accordingly. They spoke to many Nepalese people who witnessed the devastation caused by collapsed buildings in the 2015 quake. Back in the UK they used our seismic shaking table to see how replicas of Nepalese classrooms, strengthened using novel yet cost-effective techniques, performed in earthquake conditions.

The research has been supported by workshops and on-site training so, aided by our local and international partners, we’re leaving behind the skills and expertise for communities to rebuild Nepal safely.

We cannot prevent earthquakes from happening, but we can devise smart, low cost solutions to mitigate seismic risk and enhance community resilience.

Anastasios Sextos, Professor of Earthquake Engineering at the University of Bristol and Principal Investigator of the SAFER Nepal project

Want to study earthquake engineering?

Earthquake and Geotechnical Engineering research group

Studying ways to improve the resilience and adaptability of infrastructure in response to extreme events and changing circumstances.

Engineering for International Development

The faculty is involved in many research projects with sustainable development goals. They focus on natural disasters, resource security, sustainable energy and health in developing countries.

New SoFSI Lab

We’re building the National Soil-Foundation-Structure Interaction (SoFSI) Laboratory, a unique combination of testing equipment for soil-structure interaction and structural dynamics research.  


Our work in Nepal will inform our work in other developing countries. Particularly in Malawi as part of the SAFER PREPARED project.

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