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At a minimum, buildings should be designed so that they will remain functional even though damaged (an important design criterion for hospitals). Even in developing countries, there may be rules of thumb or standard construction practices that could be established and learned even by village builders so that gross errors in construction are avoided in the future.

A building may still fail in an earthquake, but injuries may be prevented or reduced if those parts of the building likely to be occupied by large numbers of people can be designed in such a way that there is less risk of injury to the occupants (95). It may be possible to design buildings so that if they do "fail," they collapse in such a manner that occupants have the best possible chance of being rescued (96). For example, almost all types of damaged buildings will contain voids or spaces in which trapped people may remain alive for comparatively long periods of time. The design of new buildings could incorporate features such as a structural core or deep-beam structure that is believed to produce more potential safe spaces or voids for entrapped victims following complete or partial collapse.