Design regulations#

The seismic code rating is a qualitative grade that was assigned to each seismic code in the region. The codes were rated based on their seismic provisions and mandatory nature. The assumption was that if a country enforced seismic provisions in the last three decades, its dwellings or establishments should be classified into a moderate or high ductility classes. On the contrary, lacking a proper seismic code, or failing to enforce it in the past, results is a lower expected ductility. Regarding the seismic provisions, the following aspects were studied in each document:

  • Methods for the estimation of lateral load demand.

  • Requirements for structural design.

  • Inclusion of a seismic zonation or a seismic hazard study.

  • Minimum standards for material and construction quality in single family structures.

  • Provisions for seismic retrofitting.

  • Requirements of mandatory inspection and quality tests.

Building codes were adopted in Central America and the Caribbean as early as 1966. By the eighties and early nineties most countries had available documentation for minimum standards of construction quality. In Central America, after the destructive events of 1931 and 1972 in Managua (Nicaragua), and 1976 in Guatemala City (Guatemala), seismic zonations and lateral loads for design were introduced in seismic codes in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica, and subsequently followed by Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. The Caribbean Uniform Building Code introduced in 1985 is still used in Belize, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, with country specific addenda. Cuba and the Dominican Republic have their own national normative. The review of the documents (summarized in the table below) suggests countries in Central America have suitable seismic provisions given the regional seismic hazard. However, it is unclear whether the provisions have been adopted in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. On the other hand, most Caribbean territories still lack of a seismic zonation and mandatory inspection requirements. Therefore, it was concluded that dwellings of confined masonry, reinforced masonry and concrete can be classified into low and moderate ductility classes for both regions. Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic are the exceptions where dwellings can also be classified into high ductility classes.


Code (rating)




Caribbean Uniform Building Code - 1985 (Low)

Not included

Not required


Caribbean Uniform Building Code - 1985 (Low)

Not included

Not required

Trinidad & Tobago

Caribbean Uniform Building Code - 1985 (Low) Small Building Code Draft - 1998 (Low)

Not included

Always Required


Código Sísmico Cubano - 1985 (Low) Norma Cubana 46:1999 - 1999 (Moderate)

Zone 1 - 0.1g Zone 2 - 0.2g Zone 3 - 0.3g


Republica Dominicana

Reglamento Sísmico R001 - 2011 (High)

Zone 1 - Sa 1.55g Zone 2 - Sa 0.95g

Always Required


Caribbean Uniform Building Code - 1985 (Low)

Not included

Not required


AGIES NR - 1996 (Low) AGIES NR - 2002 (Moderate) NSE -2010 (Moderate)

Zone 2 - 0.15g Zone 3 & 4 - 0.40g

Not always required


Código de la Construcción -2000 (Moderate) Código de la Construcción - 2008 (Moderate) Código de la Construcción - 2010 (Moderate)

Zone 1 - 0.1g Zone 2 - 0.15g Zone 3 - 0.20g Zone 4 - 0.25g Zone 5 - 0.30g Zone 6 - 0.35g


EL Salvador

Norma para Diseño por Sísmo - 1966 Norma para Diseño por Sísmo - 1989 Norma para Diseño por Sísmo - 1994 Norma para Diseño por Sísmo - 1997 (Moderate)

Zone 1 - 0.4g Zone 2 - 0.3g



RNC - 1983 (Low) RNC - 07 (Moderate)

Several zones for choosing design spectra

Not required

Costa Rica

CSCR - 1972 (Low) CSCR - 1986 (Low) CSCR -2002 (High) CSCR - 2010 (High)

Three zones for choosing design spectra



REP 2004 (Low)

Three zones - 0.14g to 0.28g