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How Can Buildings be Made to Withstand an Earthquake?

Innovative design can help buildings to be more resilient during earthquakes. This is an area of vital interest, as although earthquakes have only claimed around a million lives in the past two decades, it is the structures falling that are the most deadly part of these natural disasters.

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Bearing the Load

While most buildings are constructed to deal with vertical loads, that is the people in them, along with the weight of their contents and the building itself, earthquakes generally present loads that move from side to side, and this is when buildings start to crumble. People trapped under buildings and collapsing bridges are highly likely to lose their lives, as can be seen in this report in The Guardian.

However constructing buildings that are lighter and more flexible can produce a building that is able to process an earthquake’s movement by absorbing its energy and redistributing it.

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Lighter is Better

During some earthquakes, the roof of a building can be responsible for a lot of damage, particularly if it is made of heavy materials such as tiles. In a Chinese earthquake where 80,000 people died, it was found that buildings covered in tiles were responsible for many deaths.
To be earthquake resilient, materials that can bend without snapping is vital. Light walls also help, as do frames with, for example, steel laced through them. A central support also helps to distribute energy a bit like a large pendulum. This was known about in ancient Japan, which is why some pagodas have remained upright during many earthquakes.

A geodesic dome or a tensile fabric structure can also be light yet incredibly strong and able to withstand earthquakes. These kinds of structures are based around triangles that are flexible and can bear large loads and forces in different directions. If you are interested in discovering more about the possibilities of a tensile fabric structure it would be a good idea to consult experts in the field such as http://www.fabricarchitecture.com/.

Buildings that are more earthquake proof are needed in many densely populated areas of the world. Pacific Rim countries in what is called the Ring of Fire are particularly at risk. Not only will earthquake savvy construction reduce the destruction wrought by the Earth’s crust shifting, but the lives of many people will be saved.

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