We recently watched in shock as Japan and Ecuador experienced horrific earthquakes this past week. There is considerable speculation about a potential connection between these tremors, despite their distance. However, there’s a significant disparity between each country’s reaction to their respective natural disasters.
Ecuador’s earthquake measured 4.5, while Japan’s was 7.5. However, (as of this post) Ecuador is estimating 415 deaths; Japan is estimating 9.
The main difference here is preparedness; Japan is no stranger to devastating quakes and has developed its cities to survive. Earthquake architecture is a huge selling point and enables high rises and skyscrapers to live on shaky ground. Japan has been at the forefront of the world’s quake-proof architecture and is responsible for the survival of many buildings along our own West Coast.
So how is it done? A few cool methods have been developed…
- Rubber or fluid-filled shock absorbers reside under buildings and can dispatch energy from quakes to move in a side-to-side motion, rather than up-and-down. This allows for movement and survival of the building, if it’s flexible (see #2!). So what on earth do these industrial water balloons look like, you (and I) are no doubt wondering?
2. All sky-scrapers and most mid-high rises in quake-heavy areas are designed to be flexible. You’ve probably felt the wobbly, anxiety-inducing sensation produced by wind against the Sears’ Sky Deck. As uncomfortable as it is, it’s essential these buildings can wiggle a bit, so they can absorb some shakes without breaking. This is mostly done with a tube-shaped frame made out of steel.
3. Buildings can also use something called a shake-table. This structure sits underneath the tower and surrounds it like a base. Hydraulic arms and feet are employed to absorb and dampen lots of the energy and vibrations that threaten the building. This is represented in a ground model here, and a recently developed rooftop model shown in the post’s first image from Architect.com.
Japan is leading the world in the area of resilient architecture. Since the 8.0 earthquake in 1890 that destroyed over a hundred thousand homes, the country has maintained strict building codes, and the advancements made have saved thousands of lives from natural disaster.