How To Make Building Earthquake Proof

Perspectiva - 43 Lectura mínima

mayo 15, 2024



Earthquake-proof buildings, also known as seismic-resistant buildings, are designed to withstand the vibrations caused by earthquakes. The construction of such buildings involves various engineering strategies and materials to enhance safety and minimize damage

Earthquake’s Impact on Buildings:

Earthquakes impact buildings primarily through ground shaking, which varies in intensity based on the earthquake’s magnitude, the distance from the epicenter, and the ground type. Buildings may experience resonance, where they shake at a frequency that matches the ground motion, leading to significant damage. Additionally, soil liquefaction can cause the ground to lose strength, leading to foundation issues such as sinking or tilting. Earthquakes can also trigger landslides, which pose further risks to structures in hilly areas. The design and construction of a building significantly influence its ability to withstand an earthquake, with well-constructed buildings being less likely to suffer severe damage. Non-structural components such as windows and facades, as well as building contents, are also at risk of damage. Moreover, aftershocks can continue to affect already weakened structures, potentially leading to further damage or collapse.

What Methods should be used for Constructing Earthquake-Proof Buildings?

Constructing earthquake-proof buildings involves advanced engineering practices and materials aimed at enhancing the resilience and safety of structures in seismic-prone areas. Here's a more detailed look at the methods used:

1. Base Isolation:

Base isolation involves placing the entire building on flexible bearings called isolators, which are usually made from layers of rubber and steel. These isolators are designed to absorb seismic energy, reducing the amount transmitted to the building by allowing the base to move semi-independently of the superstructure. This significantly reduces the forces acting on the building, thereby preventing structural damage.

2. Shear Walls:

Shear walls are crucial for providing lateral strength and stiffness to a building. Typically made of reinforced concrete or steel, these walls are strategically integrated throughout the building to counteract the sideways (shear) forces generated during an earthquake. Their placement and dimensions are carefully calculated based on the building’s height and structural layout to optimize effectiveness.

3. Cross Bracing:

This technique involves placing braces in an X-shaped pattern across potential weak points, such as between columns or around elevator shafts. The braces, usually made of steel, help distribute seismic forces more uniformly across the structure, reducing the load on any single element and increasing the overall stability of the building.

4. Moment-Resisting Frames:

These frames are specially designed to resist both the vertical loads of gravity and the horizontal forces of an earthquake. The joints and connections in these frames are reinforced to allow for bending without breaking, providing additional flexibility to the structure, which helps it to sway and absorb the seismic energy safely.

5. Damping Systems:

Dampers are devices that absorb and dissipate the energy produced by seismic activity. Various types of dampers exist, including viscous fluid dampers, which use fluid resistance to convert motion into heat, and tuned mass dampers, which involve a large mass mounted in the structure and tuned to move out of sync with the building's oscillations, thereby neutralizing the forces exerted by an earthquake.

6. Flexible Utility Connections:

To prevent fires, floods, or gas leaks after an earthquake, it is essential to use flexible connections for all utilities. These connections allow the pipes and conduits to bend and stretch without breaking. Additionally, automatic shut-off valves are installed to cut the flow instantly in the event of a rupture.

7. Building Configuration and Symmetry:

The geometric shape of a building significantly influences its earthquake resistance. Buildings with a regular, symmetrical shape in both plan and elevation are less likely to experience torsional, or twisting, motions that can lead to structural failure. Engineers strive to design structures with uniform mass and stiffness distributions to avoid concentrations of forces that can cause localized failures.

Seismic-resistant Materials

Earthquake-resistant materials are specifically chosen and engineered to absorb, withstand, and minimize damage during seismic activities. The selection of these materials is crucial for enhancing the durability and safety of buildings in earthquake-prone areas. Here are some key materials commonly used in earthquake-resistant construction:

Reinforced Concrete:

This combines concrete with steel rebar, providing strength and flexibility, allowing buildings to bend without breaking during an earthquake.

Steel: Known for its strength and ductility, steel is essential for creating frames that can flex and absorb earthquake energies without failing.

Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs):

These metals can return to their original shape after deformation, useful in seismic dampers for energy dissipation.

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT):

A strong, flexible alternative to traditional wood, made by layering lumber in alternating directions, ideal for earthquake-resistant structures.

Engineered Wood:

Products like plywood improve structural performance and are used in both new construction and retrofitting for better earthquake resilience.

Fiber-Reinforced Polymers (FRPs):

Composites that reinforce buildings' structural components, enhancing strength and flexibility.

Elastomeric Bearings:

Part of base isolation systems, these rubber and steel layers act as shock absorbers, reducing seismic forces transmitted to the building.

Viscoelastic Materials:

Used in dampers, these materials combine viscous and elastic properties to help reduce building vibrations during earthquakes.

Safest Type of Building for an Earthquake

The safest type of building for an earthquake is generally considered to be a low-rise structure made of reinforced concrete or steel that incorporates base isolation technology. Reinforced concrete and steel provide the necessary strength and flexibility to absorb seismic forces without collapsing. Base isolation systems are particularly effective because they allow the building to move independently of the ground, significantly reducing the stress and impact of ground shaking. Additionally, buildings designed with a symmetrical and regular shape further enhance stability and reduce the risk of structural damage during an earthquake. These features, combined in a well-engineered building, make up some of the safest structures in seismically active areas.

Are US buildings designed to resist earthquakes?

In the United States, the ability of buildings to withstand earthquakes largely depends on their design, construction standards, and location. Buildings in areas known for seismic activity, such as California, are subject to stringent building codes that require earthquake-resistant features. These include structural reinforcements, such as shear walls and cross bracing, as well as advanced technologies like base isolators and energy-dissipating systems. However, older buildings or those not retrofitted to meet modern standards may not be as well equipped to handle seismic forces. Overall, while many newer and updated buildings in the U.S. are designed to endure earthquakes, the level of earthquake readiness can vary significantly, especially in regions where earthquakes are less expected but still possible.

Earthquake-Proof Buildings across the World:

Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, USA 

An iconic pyramid-shaped skyscraper that includes a truss system and flexible foundation for seismic resistance.

Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan

Once the world's tallest building, equipped with a giant tuned mass damper that mitigates sway during earthquakes.

Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo, Japan

This broadcasting and observation tower features a central shaft made of reinforced concrete for enhanced earthquake resistance.

Citigroup Center, New York, USA

Known for its distinctive stilt-style base and a tuned mass damper system to reduce structural sway.

Shanghai Tower, Shanghai, China

The second-tallest building in the world, designed with a twisted shape and tapering profile to reduce wind and seismic forces.

Sabanci Center, Istanbul, Turkey

Two skyscrapers were built with special attention to the region's seismic activity, including the use of flexible structures and foundations.

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, Wellington, New Zealand

Constructed with base isolators to protect it from potential earthquakes in a region prone to seismic activity.

Baha'i House of Worship (Lotus Temple), New Delhi, India

Although primarily designed for aesthetic and religious purposes, it also incorporates earthquake-resistant features due to the seismic risks in the region.

Los Angeles City Hall, Los Angeles, USA

Retrofitted with base isolators and other structural upgrades to withstand earthquakes.

Torre Mayor, Mexico City, Mexico

Considered one of the safest buildings in Latin America, designed to resist earthquakes with a deep foundation and energy-dissipating devices.

Air Traffic Control Tower, Istanbul Airport, Turkey

A new addition built with cutting-edge technology to resist the seismic threats prevalent in Istanbul.

The Crystal, Vancouver, Canada

A residential building equipped with high-tech seismic engineering features due to the earthquake risks in British Columbia.

Lotte World Tower, Seoul, South Korea

This super-tall skyscraper includes a unique structural design to withstand both earthquakes and typhoons.

Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China

Integrates both traditional Chinese architectural elements and modern earthquake-resistant technologies.

The Infinity Tower, Dubai, UAE 

Although not in a high-risk earthquake zone, this building is designed to manage seismic forces, showcasing the increasing global standard for multi-hazard resistant structures.

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