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Engineers at Stanford University Create Earthquake-resistant Houses

An earthquake with a magnitude of 9 ravaged parts of Japan in 2011 ans triggered a tsunami. The estimates vary from 15,000 to 19,000 deaths as a result from this earthquake. Damage to approximately 1.2 million buildings during the quake is estimated at a cost of $574 billion. New developments for earthquake-resistant houses may save lives and lower the financial loss experienced with future earthquakes.

The adjustments are relatively inexpensive according to engineers from Stanford University connected to the project. The engineers scaled down technology currently utilized in designs by many large structures for application with housing requirements. The number of potential lives saved by incorporating the new designs into homes far outweigh the nominal cost. The designs are available immediately for architects and contractors to begin incorporating elements into new homes. The goal of the project is a damage free house post earthquake.

Buildings and other structures often collapse because the infrastructure cannot withstand pressure resulting from movement by the earth’s crust. Rather than a traditional foundation, civil engineers at Stanford University have developed sliding steel and plastic “isolators” that allow the structure to shift during an earthquake instead of collapsing. Insurance reports costly damage due to drywall and cabinets, which often must be replaced in smaller earthquakes even when walls remain standing. The walls of the earthquake-resistant house have been reinforced to withstand greater pressure by a shift in the earth.

The house was moved back and forth on a shake table by hydraulic pistons to test the effectiveness of the new developments at the University of California, San Diego. The test home measured 36 x 22 ft and contained three bedrooms, which took about seven weeks to build. The isolator pegs return to the lowest point of the dish to assure the house returns to its original position. The house slid, but maintained structural integrity with no damage reported. The engineers claimed that the house outperformed original expectations.

It is possible to retrofit a current house with the earthquake modifications. However, homeowners will find adding the innovations to a new home more cost effective than modifying an existing house. Engineers believe that contractors will soon begin to incorporate the changes in new homes built in California and other areas inclined to earthquakes.

*Royalty free photo courtesy of New House Construction Wonderlane on Flickr's Creative Commons. 

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