; ; ; ; ; Civil Engineering Blog: The Earthquake-Proof Building That Is Built to Collapse


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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Earthquake-Proof Building That Is Built to Collapse

The Brilliant Idea: A replaceable, building-wide system to help hospitals, apartment buildings and office towers survive severe seismic shaking.

 Innovators: Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University; Jerome F. Hajjar, Northeastern University

"Elastic high-strength steel cables run down the center of the system’s frame. The cables control the rocking of the building and, when the earthquake is over, pull it back into proper alignment."

"A steel frame situated around a building’s core or along exterior walls offers structural support. The frame’s columns, however, are free to rock up and down within steel shoes secured at the base."

"Steel fuses (in blue) at the frame’s center twist and contort to absorb seismic energy. Like electrical fuses, when they “blow out” they can be replaced, restoring the structural system to pre-earthquake conditions."

For decades, the goal of seismic engineers has seemed straightforward: Prevent building collapse. And so they add steel braces to a skyscraper’s skeleton or beefier rebar to concrete shear walls. After absorbing the brunt of seismic shaking, however, the compromised structures often must be demolished. “The building, in a sense, sacrifices itself to save the occupants,” says Gregory Deierlein, a Stanford University civil and environmental engineer. A team Deierlein led with Jerry Hajjar, a Northeastern University engineer, hopes to change that, designing a system that protects both people and the structures they live and work in.

Last fall, the engineers successfully tested a 26-foot-tall, three-story, steel-frame building outfitted with the new system, built atop the E-Defense shake table—the world’s largest earthquake simulator—in Miki City, Japan. Steel “fuses,” not structural elements, absorbed the shock of an earthquake greater than magnitude 7, and cables pulled the building back into plumb once the shaking stopped. After an earthquake of that scale, the deformed fuses could be replaced in about four days—while the building remained occupied. Jim Malley of the San Francisco firm Degenkolb Engineers calls the system the next step in the evolution of green building. “As structural engineers,” he says, “our sustainable design is the ability not to have to tear buildings down after earthquakes, but to use them for hundreds of years.”


  1. Nice post! The technology like this can be very much useful for construction of the earthquake resistant in some earth quake prone area.
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  2. This is such great invention. No, it's GENIUS!! How can I get the apartment building I live in one of these earthquake proof things??? The building I live in seems like its a parking garage. I get scared just thinking of an earthquake happening and this place collapsing. It shakes a lot with just a 3.2-3.4 magnitude. who ever is in charge I live at 1829 6th avenue oakland, CA.

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  6. nice post.
    Very informative and useful

  7. the power of earthquake could be predicted, but after we've the earthquake disaster, how does we know?

    im proud in engineering technology, especially civil & structure.,..:)

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  11. Excellent article. This technology is actually helpful for builders, who build the buildings in earthquake areas. I am conjointly proud of applied science technology. We are sharing here some building engineering business report . I hope, it is a terribly helpful for builders and contractors.

  12. Right you are! I must be blind or something. My bad! I updated it now so it has all the notes. Thanks for checking it!
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  16. It's very impotent for structure.26-foot-tal successfully tested help us for civil engineer

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  18. This is one of my favorite topics in engineering systems design (they don’t call me the “Energy Zarr” without reason). In fact, I often rant about waste in solving a problem with brute force. Now… with that said, sometimes a hammer is more effective when dealing with a nail, but in general, what goes in, must come out… and most of what comes out is heat. Take the quintessential LCD display like the 60” version sitting in your living room. That beauty has white LEDs for a back-light so it must be “green” right? Well, did you know that up to 80% of the light emitted by those LEDs is absorbed by the color filters on the LCD glass? It might be “thin” but it is definitely not efficient with the back-light energy. Technologies such as OLED or Sequential Frame LCD (SFLCD) do not use filters. OLEDs are self emitting and draw zero power when off. SFLCD technology still uses a back-light, but they are RGB LEDs. Each color frame (red, green, blue) is switched at such a high speed that the eye integrates the image into the proper colors. Each pixel is now larger and brighter with less power. How much less? Try 80 watts for an SFLCD TV versus 350 watts for the traditional LCD. Energy currently is a limited resource, so innovate where you can to save it.

  19. I am amazed at how far civil engineering has come over the years. I used to want to be an engineer when I was younger because I thought it would be a fun job to construct buildings. It would be fun to learn more about this type of work to see how what plans they have for building a better future.
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  20. Woowwwww!!!!!!!!!!! wHATTTT a concept mannnn. . . . . .Truly I never thought such a things. Nice work, hope some day this protective measures can also be made in most of the part of world. I'm Ranadip, I also run a blog on Civil Engineering, my initiative is to developthe concept of fellow Civil Engineers Clearly, take a look if you don't believe http://technogenome.blogspot.in/2014/09/prestressed-concrete-brief-description.html I'm looking forward for reading more and more from your Blog. Thanks for bringing such nice blog for our Community (Civil Engineers).

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