A Conversation with Dr. Lucy Jones

Dr. Lucy Jones is the founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, with a mission to foster the understanding and application of scientific information in the creation of more resilient communities. She is the author of the forthcoming book, The Big Ones (Doubleday, April 2018) and is also a Research Associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech, a post she has held since 1984. Working with both the public and private sectors, Dr. Jones seeks to increase communities’ ability to adapt and be resilient to the dynamic changes of the world around them. The aim is to understand and communicate where the greatest vulnerabilities lie and what actions can be taken to reduce the risk that are the most cost-effective. With a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Literature from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Geophysics from MIT, Dr. Jones has been active in earthquake research for decades, furthering earthquake risk reduction through seismological research and integrated disaster scenarios.

LS: Hello, I'm Lisa Stevens with the BC Construction Association. I'm here today with Lucy Jones, an expert in earthquake research and earthquake risk reduction from LA. Lucy is the 2018 distinguished lecturer for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, BC Branch. She's in Victoria to talk about creating resilience in our communities, particularly about creating building codes that reflect the realities of earthquake loses.

LJ: Thanks for having me here.

LS: Welcome. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. As you know, BC Construction Association is sponsoring the symposium Understanding Risk in the build environment in April. I'm very pleased to share the benefit of your experience in advance of that event. My first question: Why should people working in construction and building trades be concerned about preparing before The Big One?

LJ: Because what happens in the earthquake depends completely on what we've done before. Many people believe we must have good building codes, right? And in fact, the building code has advanced the cause of life safety greatly. Earthquakes early in the 20th century, many people died. We see it now in California - even some quite large events - very limited deaths because we focused on life safety. The problem is it's only focused on life safety. We've said, 'If your building is a total financial loss after the earthquakes that was your choice to make. You just can't kill people in the process.' So the building code is solely about not killing people. The problem is, where do you live after the earthquake? Where do you go to work after the earthquake? How do you keep your city's economy going after the earthquake? The individual's financial choice to have a weak building has implications for everyone around them. As we look at how this plays out in big earthquakes, we think that we really need to move towards a higher standard that actually tries to make the building something that can be rebuilt - it doesn't have to be perfect, but you shouldn't have to tear it down after the earthquake. Unfortunately, the way our building code is constructed, it's likely that many buildings will be completely torn down or replaced and how do you keep your city running then?

LS: Do you have an idea or a picture of a framework for building code that would be better reflective of the realities of earthquake loss? 

LJ: You’ve got two issues, one is the policy decision. What is the standard that we want to build towards? Then there’s the technical issue about how do we accomplish that standard? And right now, we’ve had the objective of life safety and a technical approach that’s focused on collapse prevention as the definition of how a building kills people. What we are looking at is that as a policy matter we say, we want better than this. We want a building that we can use again after the earthquake – at least not too long after, with limited repairs. The technical approach really needs to be quite different, and I’m not an engineer so I trust my engineers to do this, but it’s focused on resilience of the structure and the ability to repair it afterwards.

LS: Do you think there’s a business case to help motivate the construction sector to support the changes that are needed?

LJ: I think one thing is that people assume it must be much more expensive and that really isn’t the case. In California, we have significantly different risk. In Orange Country the expected rate of earthquakes is enough less than it is in San Bernardino, that your building is quite a bit weaker. So we know exactly how much it costs to build a stronger building and it’s about 1 to 2%.

LS: Which doesn’t seem like much.

LJ: It’s a very, very small amount. That’s the level of difference below what you get just because of different labour costs in different markets. So we want to first recognize that we are saving a very small amount of money on the short term with a very large cost in the long term. I think the other point is, do want a city where you can continue to work afterwards? If we lose too many buildings, you might think, we look it, look at all that construction we’re going to be able to do afterwards. But at least in California, we have such a low level of earthquake insurance, if we lose that many buildings, it’s likely that we’re going to be getting decades-long depression in the market. You’ll lose not only that particular building, but for decades thereafter we’re going to have a reduce economy. Who wants to live in California when things are all on the ground?

LS: To that point of consumer choice, do you think that there may be a shift in demand in the consumer side once buyers of residences or commercial space become more aware that they could be making a choice for a more resilient building? Do you think that could help drive the market?

LJ: I think it could drive the market. The biggest challenge is that we are very emotionally afraid of earthquakes. The idea of dying at an unknown time, just out of the blue, hits a lot of emotionally buttons. Therefore rational decision making is harder to be done here. We have found that many in the building industry very wary of a rating system. We said, why don’t you just say this is a better building you’ll be able to use after the earthquake?

LS: Ratings work.

LJ: Ratings work! And they’re afraid they work so well that they won’t be able to rent their buildings at all because they’re being driven by this fear around the life safety issue. Because our general public tends to think of earthquakes as life safety rather than the real issue of the economy. Whether it goes as a rating system vs. raising the whole code, given the cost difference is so small, raising the whole code seems to me a much better approach. We need to remember when one building is badly damaged in an earthquake, its owner loses that money, its tenants can’t go to work, but probably its neighbours lose the use of their building as well. So that economic decision to build a weaker building as implications for many people beyond just the owner. Especially in urban areas, I would advocate that there’s too much financial spillover and therefore, especially given the low cost, having it mandatory in an urban area makes more sense to me. I can imagine differently in a rural area, you don’t have buildings nearby, it is your individual choice. It’s not in the big city.

LS: Depending on the market, for sure. We’ve run out of time already! And we barely starting talking about all the important, interesting things that we could talk about. Thank you for your time. For our listeners, Dr. Jones has a book coming out this March it’s called, The Big Ones. Published by Double Day.

LJ: It comes out on April 17th but it’s available for pre-order now.

LS: Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your passion for creating more resilient communities.

LJ: Thank you for having me.







August 02, 2018

Industry Voices, in response to “It’s time to leave the BC Construction Association”

Premier Horgan's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is the most dangerous and disruptive policy to be introduced by any government into our industry in recent memory. Whether you are a union or an open-shop employer, your basic rights and freedoms as Canadians are being blatantly disregarded, as is government's obligation for fair, open and transparent procurement practises.
Read More
July 27, 2018

Pattullo Procurement Strategy Takes BC Construction a Bridge Too Far

The new Pattullo Bridge Community Benefits Agreement patently illustrates what is unfair with our current government’s policy decision to mandate the nature and extent of procurement requirements in major public construction projects. For BCCA, an association that hinges its principles on fair, open and transparent procurement practices, this agreement is taking public policy in construction tendering a bridge too far.
Read More
July 18, 2018

Response to the Province’s Community Benefits Agreement Announcement

BCCA is working with our counterparts at the local, provincial and national levels to inform government on the risks of Community Benefit Agreements, and to educate public owners on the use of fair, open, and transparent procurement processes which are an obligation and responsibility of government to taxpayers.
Read More
June 21, 2018

Tackling the Late Payment Epidemic: What Will It Take?

"Prompt payment” is a familiar issue in the construction industry. Of course there’s nothing prompt about it. It’s the LACK of prompt payment that makes it an issue, handicapping our industry, squeezing the small contractors, and pushing risk down into the supply chain onto those who can least afford to carry it.
Read More
May 30, 2018

Understanding Risk British Columbia (UR+ BC) Video #URBC

The Understanding Risk British Columbia (UR+ BC) symposium, hosted April 16 & 17, 2018 in Victoria BC, marked the first time the construction industry played a leadership role in bringing together builders, designers, engineers, scientists, and policymakers to tackle the challenges of hazard mitigation and increased resilience in the industrial, commercial, and institutional built environment.
Read More
May 29, 2018

BCCA Response to Federal Purchase of Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 Billion

Official Statement - The BC Construction Association has long been a strong public supporter of BC’s oil and gas strategy and of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in particular, recognizing the significance of the project for the economic prosperity of British Columbia and the rest of Canada provided that all environmental safety stipulations are met.
Read More
April 17, 2018

Construction Leadership Award Winners 2018

#ConstructionMonthBC wouldn't be complete without a Construction Leadership Dinner. We honoured Amy Carr, Mary-Anne Bowcott, Karen Anderson, Becky Lupton, Max Ignatiuk, Jerry Pasitney & Tracey MacKinnon for their industry leadership roles.
Read More
March 19, 2018

A Conversation with Dr. Lucy Jones

We're with Lucy Jones, an expert in earthquake research and earthquake risk reduction from LA. Lucy is the 2018 distinguished lecturer for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, BC Branch. She's in Victoria to talk about creating resilience in our communities, particularly about creating building codes that reflect the realities of earthquake loses.
Read More
February 20, 2018

BC Budget 2018 – What you need to know

“It’s an ambitious budget that is working hard to provide assistance to equity seeking groups, which we can all appreciate. But it’s likely to be hard on small businesses who will see increased expenses – this is concerning because employers already have a significant cost burden. “ - Chris Atchison, President, BCCA
Read More
February 14, 2018

BCCA responds to throne speech

The BC Construction Association is encouraged that yesterday’s Speech from the Throne means good things ahead for all of BC’s tradespeople.
Read More
December 18, 2017

"Best bid" named construction phrase of the year

BCCA named “Best Bid” the most important two words in construction this year, following a statement by Premier Horgan in October to the BC Federation of Labour: “Low bids might be good for BC Liberals, but “best bids” are what we are going to do” said the Premier.
Read More
October 30, 2017

Women Build Nations

In Chicago on October 14-15, nearly 1700 tradeswomen from across North America came together with their own anthem, Women Build Nations.
Read More
October 03, 2017

Fewer BC Youth Entering Trades for First Time in 4 Years

The BC Construction Association (BCCA) is reporting a decrease in the proportion of BC high school graduates entering the construction trades, in key figures released today for the province’s industrial, commercial, and institutional construction sector.
Read More
September 25, 2017

Deputy Minister’s Industry Infrastructure Forum (DMIIF)

After a brief hiatus during the recent election period, the DMIIF brings together Deputy Ministers from the six big infrastructure ministries with industry representatives to work together on big issues that impact the construction industry.
Read More
September 12, 2017

BCCA Responds to Budget Announcement

BCCA fully supports a budget that puts families and working people first. Given the size of our sector and the role that contractors and their workforces play in the provincial economy, we believe that all issues are in some way construction industry issues.
Read More
September 07, 2017

Letter to Michael Atkinson, CCA

The BC Construction Association, as the voice for the industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) construction sector in British Columbia, supports CCA’s participation in the above-mentioned coalition letter opposing the federal government’s tax proposals affecting incorporated small businesses.
Read More
May 22, 2017

2017 BC Election Results: Key Issues Impacting the Construction Industry

Premier Clark holds a minority government but has not resigned, pledging to recall the MLAs to the Legislature by the end of June. At that time, the NDP and the Green Party (who have officially allied to form a majority) will present a non-confidence motion in Clark and the Liberal Party. Here’s how they stand on key issues impacting our industry...
Read More
May 17, 2017

New Construction Industry Report Shows Procurement Drives Innovation

The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) has published a follow-up to its Innovation Report (February 2016), which revealed BC’s construction sector lags behind other jurisdictions when it comes to innovation. The new report is called “Procuring Innovation” and lays out the case for the sector to recognize the procurement process as the key for driving innovative projects and sector development.
Read More
December 06, 2016

Chris Atchison Named BCCA President

The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) announced today that Chris Atchison has been named incoming President, replacing retiring incumbent Manley McLachlan. The handover will begin on January 3, with McLachlan staying on in an advisory capacity until March 31, 2017.
Read More
September 26, 2016

Ross McLean Receives Distinguished Service Award

The BC Construction Association has awarded a Distinguished Service Award to Houle Electric’s Regional Manager Ross McLean, in recognition of his contributions to the growth and stature of British Columbia’s construction industry.
Read More
April 25, 2016

50 job placements already secured by LNG Canada Connect program

Connecting qualified workers with job opportunities in the skilled trades in Terrace and Kitimat is crucial to successful workforce development, particularly for the nascent LNG industry. To address this challenge, B.C. Construction Association (BCCA) teamed up with LNG Canada to create the LNG Canada Connect initiative. This initiative is completely funded by LNG Canada and is an extension of our Skilled Trades Employment Program (STEP).
Read More
February 23, 2016

BC Construction Industry Hiring Workers Back From Alberta

VICTORIA, BC – Strong activity in British Columbia’s construction industry is drawing skilled workers back to the province from Alberta and more young people are entering the trades, according to the 2016 Construction Industry Survey released today by the BC Construction Association, in partnership with Progressive Contractors Association and Construction Labour Relations.
Read More
February 18, 2016

Construction Innovation Study Shows BC Behind the Curve

The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) has published an industry study that reveals BC’s construction sector is lagging behind other jurisdictions when it comes to innovation. “BC is a leader in green building, wood, and procurement technologies, but we have catching up to do in most areas of construction innovation,” says Manley McLachlan, President of the BCCA. “Construction is an extremely competitive industry: employers are holding their cards close. The result is that we’re great at on-the-job problem solving but too often missing the big picture.”
Read More
February 01, 2016

BC Ironworkers to Help Rebuild Lakay Trade School in Haiti

Five members of the Local 97 of the Ironworkers Union of BC are volunteering their time to help rebuild the Lakay Trade School in Haiti. The school is a new two story steel structure, and the Canadian welders will bolt and weld the vertical alignment and attach the steel sheeting to the second floor and roof.
Read More
December 22, 2015

Construction File: Onerous Bidding Conditions in 2015

The soon-to-be-published ‘Building a BC Construction Innovation Strategy’ (a joint initiative of BCCA and the Home Owner Protection Office) points out one of the biggest hindrances to innovation and productivity in the construction industry: the inequitable allocation of risk down the supply chain to those least able to support it.
Read More
July 20, 2015

Construction File: Job Order Contracting

To support public owners in their efforts to hold themselves accountable to taxpayers through fair open, and transparent procurement practises, the BCCA offers Thresholds for Procurement of Publicly Funded Construction policy.
Read More
July 07, 2015

Harper Government Invests in Trades Training Programs

The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of State, Chief Government Whip, and Member of Parliament for Vancouver Island North, on behalf of the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification (WD), announced $1.6 million in funding to the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA).
Read More
June 29, 2015

BC Building Act & Guide

The Building Act is new legislation introduced in spring 2015. The Building Act is B.C.'s first act dedicated just to building and construction - it's designed to modernize and streamline the building regulatory system.
Read More
May 08, 2015

Construction File: Post Closing Over Budget Negotiations

The rationale of the tender process is to replace negotiation with competition and, subject to the terms of the tender documents, negotiation is generally not permitted in the tender process. One of the primary reasons why negotiation is not permitted is to prevent bid shopping. Generally, where the tender documents expressly permit negotiation, negotiation is only permissible so long as it is consistent with what is expressly provided in the tender documents.
Read More
April 28, 2015

Wood Innovation Design Center (WIDC) Wins Award for Innovation in Architecture

BCCA would like to congratulate Michael Green Architecture on its Award of Excellence for Innovation in Architecture, received for the design of the Wood Innovation Design Center (WIDC) in Prince George, BC. The eigh-storey building is the first tall wood building in Canada built beyond current building codes, and North America’s tallest contemporary timber building.
Read More
June 17, 2014

Construction File: Prompt Payment Creates a Sustainable Industry

Construction work is project based, with unique project teams assembled through a tendering process. These project teams typically involve an owner who is the buyer of construction services from a general contractor, who in turn employs sub-contractors and often sub-sub-contractors. Add numerous suppliers to the mix, at all levels of the contracting pyramid.
Read More
January 30, 2014

Construction File: Fair Markups on Changes to the Work

The impact of changes in the scope of work – both time and money – is probably the single most disputed issue in construction. Therefore, in order to keep the project moving toward completion, the contractual provisions governing changes must be fair as well as effective in encouraging the timely resolution of cost and time issues. However, feedback from contractors is that change order markups are a major issue. Two decades ago, the discussion about markups on changes to the work was not as intense as it is today. What has changed?
Read More
August 20, 2013

Construction File: BidCentral implements new e-bonding

When the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) introduced online bidding three years ago – in the form of the BidCentral platform – there was one element of the process anticipated to go through the most significant evolution: the protocol for the submission of bid bonds online. Or, as it has now commonly become known: e-bonding.
Read More
April 18, 2013

Construction File: Aboriginal Business Enhancement and Set-Aside Programs

With little to no exception, all levels of government within Canada have an aspiration to further economic development through their purchasing conduct – often highlighting specific populations and objectives. In addition to established policies, public sector entities continue to learn and expand policy and processes to do with minority groups such as Aboriginal suppliers. Recent examples in our province can be drawn from tenders for civil construction projects where preference is given to contractors who hire Aboriginal workers or who engage in Joint Venture with Aboriginal companies.
Read More