If a magnitude 7.0 earthquake strikes today, will your office building or house withstand the shakes? The strength of a structure, whether a sixty-story skyscraper or a two-story house, partially depends on how structurally sound it was before the temblor and, of course, the location and intensity of the earthquake itself. 


When earthquakes happen, the shaking causes the foundation, floors, walls, and building support beams to vibrate while making the top portions move at varying speeds. These erratic movements may weaken edifices and lead to cracks in the foundations.   

While the Big One hasn’t happened yet, Filipinos should be on their toes, especially since the country is in the Pacific Ring of Fire, dotted with active volcanoes and typhoon belt. 

Despite these risks, the emphasis on the structural health of the country’s buildings, houses, and infrastructure is still low. These are partly due to limited resources of local government units and private individuals, poor enforcement of regulations, natural disasters, and lack of awareness.  

“Maintaining the structural integrity of a structure is crucial to prevent catastrophic consequences and ensure the long-term sustainability of the structure. It is important for individuals, government officials, and private sector organizations to prioritize the safety and integrity of buildings and infrastructure to help mitigate the risks posed by natural disasters and other hazards,” said Dr. Francis Aldrine Uy, dean of Mapúa University’s School of Civil, Environmental, and Geological Engineering (CEGE) and president of USHER Technologies Inc.

To support the government’s enforcement of the National Building Code and other regulations, private organizations and individuals should understand the value of structural integrity as a disaster mitigation measure while there is still time. They must also comply with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) guidelines for installing structural health monitoring systems in schools, hospitals, and commercial, government, industrial, and high-rise buildings.

This strategy ensures property owners of safety, durability, cost efficiency, legal and regulatory compliance, and a good reputation while helping the government mitigate disaster risks. 

However, since 2015, the compliance rate for the DPWH guidelines has been low. Property owners cited the cost of the technology and its complexity as hindrances to their compliance. 

Fortunately, innovative systems like the Universal Structural Health Evaluation and Recording System (USHER) that Dr. Uy spearheaded, can now help building owners install a reliable, economical, hassle-free, 24/7 Structural Health Monitoring System (SMH) to monitor the soundness of their properties. Equipped with cutting-edge sensors, a powerful web portal, and a mobile app to support portability and mobility, USHER is the most cost-effective and complete SMH in the country to date.

This trailblazing invention of Mapúa’s very own Dr. Uy was inspired by his personal experience during a magnitude 7.8 earthquake when he was a young teen. The devastating quake left thousands dead, injured, and missing, resulting in massive destruction. The disaster imprinted upon him the mission to develop technological solutions that could help his fellowmen avert future catastrophic events. 

“USHER is a gift of hope in our preparation for the next big one. This is our motivation, and we are inspired by this great opportunity to usher in a Filipino technology that can save people in many parts of the world,” explained Dr. Uy. 

USHER is currently the only Filipino- and ASEAN-made technology of its kind in the market. The system, which is about 50 percent cheaper than foreign-made SMHs, is also the most comprehensive. It includes installation, maintenance, web portal and app subscription, and after-sales services. 

Upon installation, USHER structural health engineers will examine the vibration data of the building and conduct statistical pattern analysis to pinpoint signs of structural damage. These structural audits and building performance characterization identify weak areas and allow property owners to repair or retrofit a facility before anything untoward strikes.   

After an earthquake, the monitoring system accurately measures its impact or intensity on a structure. This method reduces downtime or production losses due to evacuation measures and helps building administrators determine if a building is safe to be reoccupied. 

Now in its third year of full operations, USHER Technologies is monitoring at least 60 buildings nationwide. These include corporate offices, hotels, hospitals, schools, government buildings, condominiums, and five bridges. It also developed medical technology tools like disinfection chambers and swabbing test booths during the height of the pandemic. 

USHER Technologies’ noble and revolutionary efforts are a testament to how Mapúa’s Civil Engineering program and faculty equip students to become bold visionaries who are unafraid to introduce new solutions and methodologies. Turning 100 years in 2025, the University’s Civil Engineering program is recognized by the United Kingdom’s Institution of Civil Engineers and is accredited by global accreditation leader ABET, a non-profit organization that evaluates educational programs in engineering, computing, and applied and natural sciences. The program is conducted in an outcomes-based learning environment that enables students to master the principles and real-time application of structural, geotechnical, transportation, water resources, construction, management, and environmental engineering sciences.

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