Earthquake proof buildings

Many countries around the world, especially those on the ring of fire, now design, plan and construct buildings that are as resistant as possible to damage from earthquakes. Read the interesting and animated article below and complete the sentences with NO MORE than TWO WORDS from the reading text.

Synonyms needed for the words in red.

  1. To make buildings resistant to earthquakes it is important to strengthen the _______ of the building.

  2. Because base isolators or flexible pads move with the vibrations from an earthquake, ________ do not move through the building.

  3. Unlike base isolators, pendulum balls are located on the ______ buildings.

  4. The pendulum counteracts the effect of the earthquake by swinging in the _______ to the sway of the quake.

  5. Structural steel and wood are commonly used in the construction of _________ due to their high ductility.

  6. Natural elements, such as mussel fibres and _________ are providing engineers with ideas on strengthening structures.


How Earthquakes Impact Buildings

To design an earthquake-proof building, engineers need to reinforce the structure and counteract an earthquake’s forces. Since earthquakes release energy that pushes on a building from one direction, the strategy is to have the building push the opposite way. Here are some of the methods used to help buildings withstand earthquakes.

1. Create a Flexible Foundation

One way to resist ground forces is to “lift” the building’s foundation above the earth. Base isolation involves constructing a building on top of flexible pads made of steel, rubber, and lead. When the base moves during the earthquake, the isolators vibrate while the structure itself remains steady. This effectively helps to absorb seismic waves and prevent them from traveling through a building.

2. Counter Forces with Damping

A popular method, used primarily in skyscrapers, is to use pendulum power to dampen the vibrations caused by an earthquake. Engineers suspend a large ball with steel cables with a system of hydraulics at the top of the building. When the building begins to sway, the ball acts as a pendulum and moves in the opposite direction to stabilize the movement. Like damping, these features are tuned to match and counteract the building’s frequency in the event of an earthquake.

3. Earthquake-Resistant Materials

While base isolation and pendulums may help dissipate the energy of an earthquake to an extent, the materials used in a building are equally responsible for its stability.

For a building material to resist stress and vibration, it must have high ductility — the ability to undergo large deformations and tension. Modern buildings are often constructed with structural steel — a component of steel that comes in a variety of shapes that allow buildings to bend without breaking. Wood is also used and is a surprising ductile material due to its high strength relative to its lightweight structure.

Scientists and engineers are developing new building materials with even greater shape retention. Innovations like shape memory alloys have the ability to both endure heavy strain and revert to their original shape, while fiber-reinforced plastic wrap — made by a variety of polymers — can be wrapped around columns and provide up to 38% greater strength and ductility.

Engineers are also turning to natural elements. The sticky yet rigid fibers of mussels and the strength-to-size ratio of spider silk have promising capabilities in creating structures. Bamboo and 3D printed materials can also function as lightweight, interlocking structures with limitless forms that can potentially provide even greater resistance for buildings.

Over the years, engineers and scientists have devised techniques to create some effective earthquake-proof buildings. As advanced the technology and materials are today, it is not yet possible for building to completely withstand a powerful earthquake unscathed. Still, if a building is able to allow its occupants to escape without collapsing and saves lives and communities, we can consider that a great success.

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