From California's 1971 Sylmar quake to Mexico City in 1985 to the present Turkish disaster, urban planning specialist and architect Sam Aroni has investigated why one building stands and the one next door becomes rubble.
"Earthquakes are a phenomenon that really bring forth all of the mistakes of the past," Aroni says. "They're sort of a physical confessional.
It's a point dramatically made across the Turkish landscape now. In most cases, the buildings still standing were constructed to be flexible, yet strong enough to absorb the quake's tremendous energy. The structures that crumbled were not.
"Buildings that have been badly designed, badly constructed, we'll show they're the ones that have collapsed, that have failed," says Aroni.
Frederick Krimgold, a consultant to Turkey on earthquake construction, says cheap construction and that nonexistent or unenforced building codes are part of the problem.
Kringold says, "These buildings which tend to be brittle, tend to be rigid, failed catastrophically; that is, they tend to collapse entirely."
In Turkey this week, many of the destroyed buildings were slap-dash apartment complexes hastily erected for rural Turks who migrated to urban areas looking for jobs.
"Unfortunately, we've seen significant migration and population growth in many hazardous areas," says Krimgold, "and we have seen the proliferation of unsafe buildings."
While the constant threat is Mother Nature, experts caution the bigger threat may be human nature -- the tendency to forget today's disaster and not build well enough for the next.