The need to construct buildings that can withstand earthquakes is a widespread need throughout the world. Of the many projects realized by engineers of all nationalities, some of them are still under experimentation, others have already been successfully used. By researching the innovations this sector proposes, we always find some bizarre but certainly brilliant solutions.
In 2011, for example, after a very important seismic event in Japan, the company Air Danshin Systems developed a system that allows a house to be lifted at the exact moment when a sensor detects an earthquake. That is how the Japanese company created the first “rising anti-seismic home”.
In detail, the building is detached, up to 3 cm, from the ground by compressed air. This system is nothing more than the evolution of cushions made from alternate layers of rubber and steel, already in use to cushion vibrations that isolate the foundations of buildings.
This same principle is also applied to the design of shock absorbers for buildings similar to those of cars, which give the houses greater elasticity and resistance to earthquake shocks and tremors, both in terms of the overall building construction as well as individual floors.
Another futuristic invention is the “pendulum that absorbs vibrations”, a concrete project that could make homes earthquake-proof.
The most popular application of this method is located in Taipei 101, the fifth tallest skyscraper in the world, where a suspended sphere 5.5 meters in diameter and 660 tons in weight was placed between the 80th and 92nd floor. With its oscillations, the sphere counterbalances earthquake vibrations, applying the principle of “harmonious absorption”, a technique also used on Dublin Spire and the London Millennium Bridge.
But finding innovative and effective solutions for seismic waves don’t end here: a team of researchers has developed fuses for buildings, inspired by the concept of fuses in an electrical circuit, still under experiment at the University of Standford, and made up of steel reinforcements that absorb vibrations.
In the rankings of anti-seismic innovation, we also find “buildings with a soul”, namely, constructions designed with a reinforced concrete soul (and this is the innovation) to a system of the reinforcement and insulation of the foundations. The interests of the manufacturers in this technique is primarily motivated by the economic savings. The method was designed and tested by the University of Berkley.
A somewhat original project, at least in its name, is the “cloak of invisibility” for housing, of which Physical Review Letters published a study in 2009.
The system consists of concentric rings made of a material that absorbs vibrations from the ground. The rings would be buried in the foundations of the building with the purpose of cushioning the surface waves generated by the earthquake.
Even the University of Nevada in 2012 had developed a test on “smart materials”, or materials that retain a memory of their original form and are able to reconstitute it in the case of extreme stress, making the buildings more stable. The study compared the use of steel and nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium, which would be considered even more effective than steel in containing the damage caused by an earthquake.
A super resistant film in polymeric matrix fibers has also been realized to be applied to the supporting columns and other fundamental support elements of the building, which would be an excellent protection system from earthquake waves.
Lastly, one worth mentioning is the project used to support and protect Christchurch’s Transitional Cathedral in New Zealand. This cathedral is supported by 98 carbon pipes reinforced by a core made of wood. The anti-seismic structure and design of this place of worship are illustrated in an article in New Scientist. To increase the safety level of the cathedral, materials such as bamboo, plastic and used tires were used.
Most likely research and experimentation in the field of seismic security will continue to intensify. To date, however, the safest buildings remain the ones that are mostly made of steel. Steel is ductile, elastic and malleable. It perfectly combines the requirements of architecture and structural engineering, thanks to the ease with which it combines with other materials, giving rise to high performing and safe structures.
Famous steel structures and other materials in the world:
CENTRE POMPIDOU Paris
SHARD LONDON BRIDGE London
THE NEW YORK TIMES BUILDING New York
MAISON HÈRMES Tokyo