Houses in Portugal are at Seismic risk due to lack of inspection


Sector association warns of failures in controlling the resistance of concrete in the construction of houses and residential buildings. Quality and safety are at stake

The resistance of the concrete used in housing construction in Portugal is not being monitored as required by law. “It is practically non-existent”, denounces Jorge Reis, general director of the Portuguese Association of Ready-Mix Concrete Companies (APEB). “Portugal is not a good example when it comes to supervising works in the construction sector, especially in private works”, he says.

This lack of control exposes the Portuguese to possible calamities of a similar magnitude to what happened a year ago in Turkey and Syria. The regions of the Metropolitan Area of ​​Lisbon, Algarve and Azores are those with the greatest seismic risk, but there are other areas of the country that are also exposed to earthquakes.

To avoid tragedies, the quality of the concrete incorporated in the construction of houses should be controlled by local authorities and the producers of this material by the Food and Economic Security Authority (ASAE). This was determined in Decree-Law 90/2021. As Jorge Reis explains, “this inspection, which should focus on verifying the certification of concrete producers and on checking the strength of the concrete to assess whether it is in accordance with what was specified by the designer, is practically not carried out by anyone, in complete non-compliance” with the law. In his reading, this failure to comply is due to “lack of knowledge, incapacity or lack of resources”.

ASAE has based its action on documental verification of the certification of concrete producers, but given the requirement of the diploma, it is not yet controlling the quality of the product, said a source from this organization.

To ensure that the manufacture of this material complies with the due composition, ASAE is working together with the National Civil Engineering Laboratory and IAPMEI, recognizing the need for specialized knowledge at a technical level to “apply the law in its entirety”. DN/Dinheiro Vivo also contacted the Ministry of Territorial Cohesion, which is responsible for the local authorities, to obtain clarification on the actions of the council in this matter, but at the time of writing this edition had not received a response.

According to the decree-law, municipal councils must verify whether the builder carried out tests in accredited laboratories on the robustness of the concrete applied in the work, as stipulated by the designer. It is these tests that make it possible to determine the building’s resistance to a possible earthquake. As Jorge Reis highlights, “failing to check the resistance of the concrete applied in private constructions may be compromising the capacity of these constructions to resist an earthquake that may occur, as we know that this will happen, we just don’t know when and with what intensity”.

The sales volume of ready-mixed concrete in Portugal reached 6.6 million cubic meters in 2022, and APEB estimates that last year this value increased by around 5%, to 7 million cubic meters, for use in public and private works. According to Jorge Reis, this indicator “has grown steadily since 2013”. Last year, the sector’s turnover reached 650 million euros.

Source and photo; DN Sónia Santos Pereira