The characteristics of the buildings we spend our time in for leisure or work are important in defining earthquake risk. The better a house resists an earthquake, because, for example, it has been designed and reinforced accordingly, the less damage will occur if an earthquake occurs. Well-constructed buildings made from reinforced concrete and wood are generally able to withstand stronger earthquakes and are less vulnerable than brick buildings.
Although most European countries have recent design codes and standards (Eurocode 8 and national codes) that ensure adequate protection from earthquakes, many older buildings still exist and they pose a high risk when earthquakes occur.
In particular, at places with high earthquake hazard levels, unreinforced masonry housing (which is typically not designed using codes and has a more brittle behaviour than reinforced concrete, wood and steel) contributes significantly to the earthquake risk.
Approximately 60% of reinforced concrete buildings in Europe have been seismically designed, but the quality of their seismic design depends on when and where they were built. The majority of older reinforced concrete buildings are still vulnerable to earthquake ground shaking and they are often an important driver of large economic losses and fatalities after an earthquake.