The World Housing Encyclopedia (WHE) Report Database contains 130 reports on housing construction types in 43 seismically active countries. Each housing report is a detailed description of a housing type in a particular country. The description is prepared from a number of standard closed-ended questions and some narrative that have been provided by report authors. Each report has five major categories including architectural and structural features; Building Materials and Construction Process; Socio-economic Issues; Past Performance In Earthquakes, Seismic Features and Vulnerability; and Retrofit. All of the housing reports in this database have been contributed by volunteers. If you are interested in writing a housing report please contact the WHE Editorial Board.


The World Housing Encyclopedia (WHE) is a collection of resources related to housing construction practices in the seismically active areas of the world. The mission is to share experiences with different construction types and encourage the use of earthquake-resistant technologies worldwide. The technical activities of the WHE are steered by an international team of 22 professionals specializing in different aspects of seismic safety of buildings and structures. They bring relevant experience from 16 seismically active countries across the world. For more information about the World Housing Encyclopedia, visit

General Information


Report #:138
Building Type: Stone masonry residential buildings
Country: Pakistan
Author(s): Qaisar Ali
Taj Muhammad
Last Updated:
Regions Where Found: Buildings of this construction type can be found in the Northern mountainous parts of Pakistan where the percentage of this type of construction may exceed 80% of the total residential building stock. This type of housing construction is commonly found in both rural and sub-urban areas. Stone masonry is basically general practice for residential building construction in both rural and urban areas. The form and type varies with locality. In cities however the new trend is to use RCC frame structures instead of stone masonry.

In the Northern part of Pakistan, which mostly consists of ...

Length of time practiced: 101-200 years
Still Practiced: Yes
In practice as of:
Building Occupancy: Single dwelling
Typical number of stories: 1
Terrain-Flat: Typically
Terrain-Sloped: Off
Comments: It is not known exactly as to how long this construction type has been practiced. It is believed that this type has been practic





Plan Shape Rectangular, solid
Additional comments on plan shape Variable configurations are used to suit requirements. Rectangular buildings are most common practice. L-shape is also constructed. In some cases isolated rooms on 2 or 3 sides of an open terrace are constructed for a single housing unit.
Typical plan length (meters) 8-15
Typical plan width (meters) 5-12
Typical story height (meters) 3.2
Type of Structural System Masonry: Stone Masonry Walls: Rubble stone (field stone) in mud/lime mortar or without mortar (usually with timber roof)
Additional comments on structural system The vertical load-resisting system: The masonry walls and wooden columns, if provided, act as load bearing elements. The walls and wooden columns in turn transfer the load to the ground either directly or through the foundation. The lateral load resisting system consists of masonry walls and wooden columns also contribute, if they are provided.
Gravity load-bearing & lateral load-resisting systems The most popular practice is to use rubble stone masonry in mud mortar or with out mortar (dry masonry) with wooden roofs, with or without using wooden columns to support roofing.
Typical wall densities in direction 1 >20%
Typical wall densities in direction 2 >20%
Additional comments on typical wall densities The typical structural wall density is more than 20 %. 15% - 25%.
Wall Openings Usually one door and one or two windows in each room are provided. In present day practice standard size doors (3 ft x 7 ft) and windows (3 x 4 to 6 x 4 ft) are provided. In past practice small doors and windows were used. Doors up-to 4 ft height and windows of 1 x 2 to 2 x 2 ft were commonly used in traditional houses in the remote northern part of this region. A small opening (usually 1 x 1 ft size) in the roof was also provided for the purpose of both lighting and fire smoke ventilation.
Is it typical for buildings of this type to have common walls with adjacent buildings? Yes
Modifications of buildings Generally these houses are not modified. Additional rooms are constructed horizontally when so required.
Type of Foundation Shallow Foundation: Wall or column embedded in soil, without footing
Additional comments on foundation Walls are directly supported on soil without footings in traditional practice. Wooden columns are directly rested on a stone block of comparatively larger size which in turn rests on soil. In modern practice a regular step footing (one or two steps) is provided on plain concrete bedding.
Type of Floor System Other floor system
Additional comments on floor system Rammed Earth . Rammed earth floors in traditional houses and PCC floor in modern houses are normally practiced. Occasionally wooden floor are also constructed in special rooms (i.e. sitting rooms for guests or room used for storage of house commodities etc.). Wooden covered with mud and earth.
Type of Roof System Roof system, other
Additional comments on roof system
Additional comments section 2 A typical separation distance between buildings cannot be specified. Sometimes there may be no separation while in isolated dwellings, separation distance may be up-to # km or even more.) When separated from adjacent buildings, the typical distance from a neighboring building is 0-500 meters.


Building Materials and Construction Process



Description of Building Materials

Structural Element Building Material (s)Comment (s)
Wall/Frame Stone, mud mortar, cement sand mortar Mix Proportion- In case of cement mortar 1:8 to 1:10 is used No experimental work has been done for determination of mechanical properties of such type of stone masonry.
Foundations Stone, mud mortar, cement sand mortarMix Proportion- In case of cement mortar 1:8 to 1:10 is used No experimental work has been done for determination of mechanical properties of such type of stone masonry.
Floors No experimental work has been done for determination of mechanical properties of such type of stone masonry.
Roof Wood, earthNo experimental work has been done for determination of mechanical properties of such type of stone masonry.

Design Process

Who is involved with the design process? None of the above
Roles of those involved in the design process Design is not practiced. Skilled labourers for each component of the work are expert in their job through experience and practice.
Expertise of those involved in the design process The owner hires these expert 'skilled labourers' to carry out the construction work. No role for either Engineers or Architects.

Construction Process

Who typically builds this construction type? Owner
Roles of those involved in the building process Usually the owner himself is the builder and typically lives in the same building.
Expertise of those involved in building process
Construction process and phasing In most cases the owners arrange material at site. Skilled labour (mason, carpenters etc) and unskilled labour are engaged to do the work on daily wages or lump-sum basis. Walls are generally constructed of stone laid dry, or in mud and rest on soil directly usually at a shallow depth (1-2 ft) without a foundation. A wooden roof rests directly on walls. To add to the stability wooden columns below beams are occasionally provided. The construction of this type of housing takes place incrementally over time. Typically, the building is originally not designed for its final constructed size. Construction takes place over time according to the availability of resources.
Construction issues

Building Codes and Standards

Is this construction type address by codes/standards? No
Applicable codes or standards
Process for building code enforcement No practice or attempt is made to enforce building codes

Building Permits and Development Control Rules

Are building permits required? No
Is this typically informal construction? Yes
Is this construction typically authorized as per development control rules? No
Additional comments on building permits and development control rules Building development control rules do not exist and therefore are not enforced so anyone can construct any type of residential building.

Building Maintenance and Condition

Typical problems associated with this type of construction
Who typically maintains buildings of this type? Owner(s)
Additional comments on maintenance and building condition Maintenance is usually not required. In the case where any damage occurs, it is repaired. When the building reaches its serviceable life, it is dismantled and reconstructed.

Construction Economics

Unit construction cost 2400 - 5400 PRs/m2 (40 - 90 $US/m2).
Labor requirements 2 to 5 man-days of skilled labour (mason, carpenter etc) and 8 to 12 unskilled labour will be required per m2 of this type of construction.(i.e. if 4 skilled and 10 unskilled labours are engaged to construct a house of this type with 100 m2 cover area they will complete it in 2 to 4 months.).
Additional comments section 3


Socio-Economic Issues



Patterns of occupancy A single family or an extended family typically occupies one house or housing unit. The number of inhabitants in a family (single or extended) in most cases exceeds 10.
Number of inhabitants in a typical building of this construction type during the day <5
Number of inhabitants in a typical building of this construction type during the evening/night 5-10
Additional comments on number of inhabitants
Economic level of inhabitants Very low-income class (very poor)Low-income class (poor)Middle-income class
Additional comments on economic level of inhabitants Ratio of housing unit price to annual income: 1:1 or better Roughly about 20% of the population falls in the category of very poor, 65% poor and 15% middle class. 1% among middle class may be approximately rated as rich.
Typical Source of Financing Personal savingsInformal network: friends or relatives
Additional comments on financing Residential buildings are constructed by personal savings in most cases. Relatives and friends contribute in cash, kind, labour and materials in deserving cases.
Type of Ownership Own outright
Additional comments on ownership The houses are owned as common property of the family and are legally divided among the owners/heirs in accordance with the general rule of law practiced, whenever families are separated. The ownership of the house is thus transferred but remains within the family. Therefore the ownership can be categorized as "owned outright".
Is earthquake insurance for this construction type typically available? No
What does earthquake insurance typically cover/cost
Are premium discounts or higher coverages available for seismically strengthened buildings or new buildings built to incorporate seismically resistant features? No
Additional comments on premium discounts
Additional comments section 4





Past Earthquakes in the country which affected buildings of this type

YearEarthquake Epicenter Richter Magnitude Maximum Intensity
1972Sept.13. Hamaran (Hindu Kush)
1974Dec. 28. Pateen Valley (Hindu Kush)
1981Sept. 12. Darel Valley (Hindu Kush)
2002Nov. 01 Raikot Valley (Himalayas)
2002Nov. 20 Raikot valley (Himalayas)
2005Oct 08 Muzafarabad (Himalayas)

Past Earthquakes

Damage patterns observed in past earthquakes for this construction type An earthquake of Magnitude Mw = 7.6 occurred on October 8, 2005 at 08:50 am local time causing damage and casualties over an area of 30,000 km2 in the N-W.F.P. province of Pakistan and parts of Pakistan administered Kashmir. The main event was followed by more than 978 aftershocks of Magnitude Mw = 4.0 and above, till October 27, 2005. The epicenter of the main earthquake was located at latitude of 34# 29' 35. N and longitude of 73# 37' 44. E. The focal depth of the main earthquake was determined to be 26 km (USGS). This was the deadliest earthquake in the recent history of the sub-continent with more than eighty thousand casualties, two hundred thousand injured, and more than 4 million people were left homeless. The adverse effects of this earthquake are estimated to be more than those of the tsunami of December 2004. The major cities and towns affected were Muzafarabad, Bagh and Rawlakot in Kashmir and Balakot, Shinkiari, Batagram, Mansehra Abbotabad, Murree and Islamabad in Pakistan. A significant number of casualties and injuries in the affected regions were associated with the total collapse of single story unreinforced stone masonry buildings. The stone masonry walls consisted of irregularly placed undressed stones, mostly rounded, that were laid in cement sand, mud mortar or even dry in some cases.
Additional comments on earthquake damage patterns In-plane shear and out-of-plane failure of walls; roof collapse.

Structural and Architectural Features for Seismic Resistance

The main reference publication used in developing the statements used in this table is FEMA 310 “Handbook for the Seismic Evaluation of Buildings-A Pre-standard”, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C., 1998.

The total width of door and window openings in a wall is: For brick masonry construction in cement mortar : less than ½ of the distance between the adjacent cross walls; For adobe masonry, stone masonry and brick masonry in mud mortar: less than 1/3 of the distance between the adjacent cross walls; For precast concrete wall structures: less than 3/4 of the length of a perimeter wall.
Structural/Architectural Feature Statement Seismic Resistance
Lateral load pathThe structure contains a complete load path for seismic force effects from any horizontal direction that serves to transfer inertial forces from the building to the foundation.TRUE
Building Configuration-VerticalThe building is regular with regards to the elevation. (Specify in 5.4.1)TRUE
Building Configuration-HorizontalThe building is regular with regards to the plan. (Specify in 5.4.2)TRUE
Roof ConstructionThe roof diaphragm is considered to be rigid and it is expected that the roof structure will maintain its integrity, i.e. shape and form, during an earthquake of intensity expected in this area.FALSE
Floor ConstructionThe floor diaphragm(s) are considered to be rigid and it is expected that the floor structure(s) will maintain its integrity during an earthquake of intensity expected in this area.FALSE
Foundation PerformanceThere is no evidence of excessive foundation movement (e.g. settlement) that would affect the integrity or performance of the structure in an earthquake. FALSE
Wall and Frame Structures-RedundancyThe number of lines of walls or frames in each principal direction is greater than or equal to 2.TRUE
Wall ProportionsHeight-to-thickness ratio of the shear walls at each floor level is: Less than 25 (concrete walls); Less than 30 (reinforced masonry walls); Less than 13 (unreinforced masonry walls);N/A
Foundation-Wall ConnectionVertical load-bearing elements (columns, walls) are attached to the foundations; concrete columns and walls are doweled into the foundation.FALSE
Wall-Roof ConnectionsExterior walls are anchored for out-of-plane seismic effects at each diaphragm level with metal anchors or straps. FALSE
Wall OpeningsFALSE
Quality of Building MaterialsQuality of building materials is considered to be adequate per the requirements of national codes and standards (an estimate). N/A
Quality of WorkmanshipQuality of workmanship (based on visual inspection of a few typical buildings) is considered to be good (per local construction standards).FALSE
MaintenanceBuildings of this type are generally well maintained and there are no visible signs of deterioration of building elements (concrete, steel, timber).FALSE

Additional comments on structural and architectural features for seismic resistance
Vertical irregularities typically found in this construction type Other
Horizontal irregularities typically found in this construction type Other
Seismic deficiency in walls Poor quality of mud, excessive thick mud joints, and poor quality of construction.
Earthquake-resilient features in walls Wooden horizontal bands and vertical wooden posts within the walls
Seismic deficiency in frames
Earthquake-resilient features in frame
Seismic deficiency in roof and floors Parts of the roof are not properly connected so each part acts independently without any integrity.
Earthquake resilient features in roof and floors
Seismic deficiency in foundation
Earthquake-resilient features in foundation

Seismic Vulnerability Rating

For information about how seismic vulnerability ratings were selected see the Seismic Vulnerability Guidelines

High vulnerabilty Medium vulnerabilityLow vulnerability
Seismic vulnerability class o

Additional comments section 5

Retrofit Information



Description of Seismic Strengthening Provisions

Structural Deficiency Seismic Strengthening

Additional comments on seismic strengthening provisions The area is seismically very active. Earthquakes in the past have caused damage in different localities. Being scattered, far-flung, and mountainous no documentation of such type of damage in the area is recorded and available. No defined retrofit (or strengthening) practice is known except only making a stronger component than that damaged in the earthquake through reconstruction or new construction, fig 25 though 27
Has seismic strengthening described in the above table been performed? No design method is practiced. The trend is to make stronger components than those damaged previously.
Was the work done as a mitigation effort on an undamaged building or as a repair following earthquake damages? N/A
Was the construction inspected in the same manner as new construction? N/A
Who performed the construction: a contractor or owner/user? Was an architect or engineer involved? N/A
What has been the performance of retrofitted buildings of this type in subsequent earthquakes? N/A
Additional comments section 6




Name Title Affiliation Location Email
Qaisar Ali Associate Professor Department of Civil Engineering, NWFP University of Engineering and Technology Pesh, Peshawar 25000, PAKISTAN
Taj Muhammad Assistant Executive Engineer Northern Areas Public Works Dept. Water and Power Division NAPWD Diamer Chilas N.As. , PAKISTAN


Name Title Affiliation Location Email
Robin Spence Director Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd. Cambridge CB1 1DP, UNITED KINGDOM