Earthquake-Proof Buildings Explained

Over the last decade and more, we have witnessed several natural disasters wrecking some of the well-built cities and town. Among all the phenomenon, the most common one is an earthquake, infamous for damaging buildings and roads. For instance, the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016 damaged several buildings and roads in Kaikoura and Wellington. As a measure against such massive destruction, buildings require earthquake strengthening Wellington contractors perform. Additionally, new buildings need to be earthquake resistant. 

But how are earthquake-proof buildings built?

  • Flexible Foundation

An earthquake release energy that acts on a building from one direction, moving from one side to another. Most foundations cannot handle this movement and collapse. Earthquake-proof buildings, therefore, have flexible pads in their foundation, isolating it from the ground. This allows the building to remain steady, while the base moves during an earthquake. A flexible foundation also helps in absorbing the seismic waves and prevent them from travelling through the building. 

  • Damping Force

Cars and bikes have shock absorbers that allow a driver to feel a minimum impact on sudden breaks, etc. Such a damping effect is also used in earthquake-proof buildings. Engineers either place dampers in the beams of a building or suspend a large ball with steel cables (in case of skyscrapers) to achieve this effect. Where the first one converts vibrational energy into heat, the latter acts as a pendulum during an earthquake, moving in the opposite direction. 

  • Vibration Shield

Vibration shield is an experimental technique developed by researchers which aim to deflect and reroute the seismic waves over countering it. 100 concentric plastic and concrete rings are placed at least three feet below the foundation to channel the waves away from the building. 

  • Reinforce Structure

By reinforcing a structure using shear walls, diaphragms, and moment-resisting frames, a building can redistribute the forces and withstand collapse. Shear walls, that retain the shape of the building. Diaphragms push force to the verticle structures and away from the floors. Moment-resisting frames allow structures to bend while keeping the joints rigid. 

  • Resistant Materials

Aside from shock absorbers and concentric ring shields, an earthquake building needs specific materials to ensure stability. Some of the options include structural steel, wood, memory alloy, bamboo, etc. Use of each of these allows buildings to bend without breaking, retain its shapes, and be flexible and ductile. Aside from these, engineers are also considering 3D printed materials to function as lightweight, interlocking structures. 

Conclusion

Earthquakes, no question, can be deadly to man-made structures. Proofing buildings against this natural phenomena can reduce the chances of irreparable damage and collapse. One thing to keep in mind, here, is that as advanced as our technology is, we are yet to be able to build structures that can face an earthquake unscathed. However, if these structures allow people to escape unhurt, it is a success. 

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