How do scientists make earthquake-proof buildings?

March, 31 2021
Every year, about 10,000 earthquakes occur in Southern California. It's a harsh reality that the region is highly active in seismic activity, and a key factor that scientists and vibration consultants must take into account when constructing buildings. Read on to learn more about how different methodologies are used to make buildings capable of handling an earthquake's vibrations.

1. Base isolation

One effective way to prevent shockwaves from traveling through a building is by sitting it on top of flexible pads that create a buffer between the foundation and the ground. That way, when an earthquake strikes, only the base will move, while the larger structure remains unaffected. The pads absorb the vibrations, effectively isolating it from the rest of the building.

2. Dampers

Shock absorbers are useful for reducing the magnitude of shockwaves. One method is to use vibrational control devices, or dampers, placed between a column and beam at every level of a building. These dampers are essentially piston heads placed inside a cylinder full of silicone oil. During an earthquake, the building will transfer the energy from the vibrations into the pistons. The pistons push against the oil, dissipating the force of the vibrations by transforming it into heat.

3. Pendulum power

Another shock absorption strategy is pendulum power. Vibration consultants mainly use this in skyscrapers. A large ball is suspended from steel cables at the top of the building, with a hydraulics system attached. When an earthquake hits, the building will sway from the waves. At that point, the ball will act as a pendulum, swinging in the opposite direction to counteract the vibrations.

4. Seismic invisibility cloak

A novel way of shielding buildings from vibrations is by creating a "seismic invisibility cloak." A cloak of 100 concentric plastic and concrete rings is installed below the foundation of the building. As the earthquake travels through the rings, the waves are forced to follow a path of movement through to the outer rings. This reroutes the energy away from the building, where it can then be safely dissipated into the plates in the ground. Preventing damage from earthquakes is a matter of top priority, and we're here to help. We can help you maximize the productivity and profitability of your projects in Southern California by supporting you with our geotechnical and geological experience. Please find out more about our leading vibration monitoring services here.

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