“Built like a brick sh*thouse” was once a phrase used to describe an indestructible building. Following the Canterbury earthquakes, the phrase was modified and is now used to describe poor buildings: “Built like a sh*t brickhouse”.
Most modern commercial buildings performed very well in the Canterbury quakes. Typically constructed of reinforced concrete, these buildings were designed to modern thinking incorporating ductile detailing and well-conceived seismic load paths (though not always). The buildings were designed to provide a high probability of remaining standing in the design level earthquake to allow people to exit the building safely. This was, and still is, the requirement of today’s codes. In Christchurch, most modern buildings behaved exactly as they were designed to behave. They may have been damaged beyond repair (most high-rise buildings in Christchurch are being demolished) and an economic write-off but in general people escaped safely.