Earthquak Proof Buildings and StructuresWe cannot help but wish that buildings and other structures were built better and stronger especially when we see or watch the results of an earthquake in the news. Numerous people are killed annually by earthquakes. Making good choices on where to live, knowing the difference between safe and an unsafe buildings should somehow protect you from this natural occurrence. But nothing is guaranteed when it comes to earthquakes or other calamities. But luckily, there are certain building methods and materials to make structures more resistant to earthquakes. Being aware about this information can potentially save you and your family.
Generally, all buildings can withstand weak earthquakes. They do not fall apart and collapse instantly. The reason for this is most buildings can support their own weight plus a few more. Even poorly built buildings and structures can defy the up-and-down movement caused by earthquakes. But it is the side-to-side movement that makes buildings collapse. Most buildings are not designed to endure this. Structures and buildings should be supported to resist the sideways effect of an earthquake. There are other methods that we can use but the most common rule is; the lighter the building, the less the loads are and the better for all. But can earthquake-proof buildings really be built? But we must determine the reasons why a building collapses in the first place.
Why do buildings collapse in earthquakes?
- Most buildings are not built to withstand seismic shocks.
- Earthquake moves the ground and sends a series of shockwaves from the ground up but it is this side-to-side movement which causes the worst damage.
- Some buildings have the wrong proportions. The taller the building, the wider and stronger the structure and foundation should be. But many buildings tend to forget to make the necessary structural works after an improvement or additional weight had been made and added. Many buildings have not been strengthened when the extra weight was added.
- Structural frames should support the building but most buildings, especially the multi-storey ones, are built wherein the floors and walls are only supported by and resting on the walls; relying only on their own weight. This could cause the floor or the roof to fall over during earthquake.
- Sometimes buildings are built on soft soil. Similarly, buildings which are located near the fault line are more susceptible to collapse.
How can we make buildings more resistant to earthquakes?
One of the most crucial physical features of earthquake resistant buildings and structures is flexibility. Buildings and their foundations need to be built to defy side to side movement. A solid or rather rigid structure will fall apart during the sideways movement caused by an earthquake. Taller buildings are naturally more flexible than low rise buildings and structures. That's because low rise structures need better support to withstand the forces of an earthquake.
It is also crucial that building materials used should be of light-weight material. They can significantly help reduce the amount of damage caused during an earthquake. Alternatively, wood and steel are better than unreinforced concrete, stucco or masonry because such materials have greater flexibility. The lighter the building is, the less the load. This is essential especially when the weight is concentrated in the higher up. Floors, walls, and partitions should also be made of light-weight material.
Reinforced Walls, Beams and Trusses
Walls should also be strong enough to take the swaying load of an earthquake. The walls must sway and go equally in both directions. Incidentally, strategically placed beams and trusses should help transfer the effects of the sway to the base and surrounding areas. They must not fall apart and must remain in place to withstand the aftershocks of an earthquake. Reinforced beams and joints can also help prevent deformity and collapse of buildings and structures during and after an earthquake.
Foundational plates and cushions can be layered to let the sliding movement and absorb the shock and movement during an earthquake. These specially designed foundation plates and cushions can help limit damage and help prevent collapse of buildings and structures.
No to Soft Soil
Soil types can also limit damage brought about by an earthquake. Softer soils contain a high amount of moisture and are more capable of creating more damage to buildings and structures than those built on more solid grounds and surroundings. Living on soft soil can amplify the earthquake motions. This is due to the fact that energy passes through less dense material or substance, in this case, the soil. Reinforcing additional solid breaks in the soil to make the foundation denser greatly reduces the possibility of damage to buildings and structures.
Proportion is Key
Generally it is never wise to build buildings that are too high compared to their width. The width and height of the building should be proportional unless special precautions are taken.
Some structures and buildings are designed to fail in an intentional planned way. In the event of an earthquake, these planned flaws allow for protection of interior spaces where the occupants are likely to be situated. These buildings and structures are also designed to lessen the amount of debris that might fall in nearby buildings and surroundings.
Progress in the field of structural engineering looks promising. Advances in the field of structural engineering and manufacturing of building materials are being done and new and more superior construction materials are emerging. Earthquake-proof buildings and structures may soon be a reality. Research is being performed to the types of buildings and structures that would be able to resist earthquakes. While we cannot control natural calamities, we can at least do something to construct safer buildings and structures.
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