How Earthquake Resistant Structures Could Save Lives
On July 14, 2019, a 6.6 magnitude undersea quake [source], the equal-largest earthquake recorded in the country, has hit off the Kimberley coast, shaking items off shelves and frightening locals who had never experienced anything like it before.
While there is no threat of a tsunami to the Australian mainland, there is a reasonable possibility that an earthquake will take place in the near future and take away many structures and lives. Earthquake has always been common. Over the years, engineers have come to realise one thing with increasing certainty: Earthquakes don't kill people, buildings do.
As structures continue to experience sudden lateral accelerations, people have searched for ways to keep buildings upright and intact during catastrophic earthquakes like the one that shook Western Australia.
A number of architects and engineers believe that it is possible to build an earthquake resistant structures. Today, there are new materials and designs that are better engineered to withstand the waves of forces involved in an earthquake.
Earthquake that Shook Up Aussies
Aussies often think that earthquakes are not a major threat in the country. However, local residents were stunned as the biggest-equal earthquake in Australia rattled Broome. Fortunately, it occurred well away from any population centres, which was why the undersea tremor between Port Hedland and Broome posed no tsunami threat.
The earthquake was believed to be a hundred times stronger than the devastating Newcastle quake, which took away more than 10 people, injured more than 160, and damaged over 50,000 buildings and structures. It was definitely one of Australia's worst nightmares. If the earthquake in Broome occurred near population centres, it could have destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings that could have killed many people.
The most recent seismic event has left people a reminder: Be prepared! Even after several months since the earthquake in 2019, there are still a number of buildings that are not ready when another disaster comes. Engineers and architects have developed methods and techniques to make structures more impervious to earthquakes.
Deep-Seated Prevention to Thwart Off Damage
Before any structure encounters the most destructive forces of natures, our engineers have already found ways to prevent any damage.
Engineers and architects along with researchers try to develop novel strategies to make sure that future structures are even better equipped to avoid collapse. As a matter of fact, they may be able to come up with a solution that can even prevent earthquakes before they can happen. But before we dig into that, let us know and understand how our current structures work.
When an earthquake occurs, the base of a building or a structure can no longer support the upper weight, causing the building to fall. Generally, the taller the building, the stronger the difference in forces between the top and the bottom, increasing the likelihood that the material could crash.
Ways to Make an Earthquake Resistant Structure
To design an earthquake-resistant house or building, our engineers have to reinforce the structure and counteract the forces of nature, since earthquakes release energy that pushes buildings from one direction to another. Even if structures are equipped to deal with vertical forces from their weight and gravity, they cannot handle forces from side to side. Here are some methods that may help buildings withstand earthquakes:
Develop a flexible foundation.
Lifting the building's foundation above the ground is a way to resist ground forces. The building should be constructed on top of flexible pads that isolate the foundation from the ground. In this case, when an earthquake occurs, only the base will move and the structure will remain steady.
Counter forces with damping.
Similar to cars, engineers use shock absorbers in making earthquake-resistant structures to reduce the magnitude of shockwaves and help the movement of buildings slow down.
Protect the building from vibrations.
Other than counteracting forces, researchers have found a way to deflect and reroute the energy emitted by earthquakes. In this method, you need to place concrete and plastic rings underneath the building to channel shockwaves.
Reinforce the structure of the building.
A building must redistribute the forces that travel through them during an earthquake to withstand collapse.
Even if shock absorbers, invisibility cloaks and the like can dispel the energy to an extent, the materials used in constructing the building are equally responsible for its durability and stability.
Most modern buildings are constructed with structural steel - a component that allows a building to bend without breaking.
Just like steel, wood is a surprisingly ductile material because of its high strength relative to its lightweight structure. It has the ability to go through large deformations and tension.
Researchers and engineers have created new earthquake resistant building materials with greater shape retention. Innovations such as shape memory alloy have the ability to endure heavy strains and revert to their original shapes.
A More Equipped and Better Prepared Australia
Anyone who is involved in constructing earthquake resistant structures has taken advantage of the most up-to-date earthquake technology. Even so, engineers continue to devise solutions to equip and prepare Australia. In the near future, scientists and engineers will be able to reach an engineering feat, predicting earthquakes, they have worked towards for many years.
As of today, our buildings and structures are already designed to withstand the dangers brought about by earthquakes. At Lighthouse, we use and benefit from the latest designs and buildings materials to better equip our clients' buildings to endure the forces of nature.
Our rotating houses not only designed to produce world-class architectural designs and give you comfort, but they are especially made to avoid total collapse, preserve its original state, and minimise damage in case of an earthquake or tremor.
Going back to the largest earthquake recorded in Australia, our fellow Aussies will learn from it. It may take a considerable amount of time to figure the lessons out, but it will all be worth it. With more knowledge and understanding about the subject, Australia will be more prepared and equipped to withstand an earthquake.
Luxury Holiday Home
The Lighthouse will soon be available as luxury holiday accommodation.
Don Dunick is an engineer. Having previously owned his engineering construction and manufacturing company, he now works as a specialist engineer engaged in the Pacific Region, while also focusing on the technical departments of Lighthouse Developments.
Joanna Dunick is employed as a marketing and business development coordinator and focuses on the day-to-day marketing and promotional aspects
Lighthouse Developments has been born out of a passion for an innovative, practical solution to many of the problems we accept within a conventional home. The concept is also easily adaptable for commercial use.