Natural disasters all over the world have taken down buildings and homes time and time again, forcing civil engineers to rethink their approaches, and design structures that can withstand the forces of mother nature. Earthquakes in particular have always caused serious problems for those in construction, and when they occur in densely populated areas with thousands of buildings around, the potential damage is immense. Collapsing buildings are more dangerous than earthquakes themselves, so civil engineers all over the world must know how to design buildings that can stay upright during these violent rumblings within the earth’s crust.
The biggest problem developers faced when dealing with high rise buildings and structures susceptible to collapsing from earthquakes was their inability to sway side-to-side without breaking or falling over. To combat this, light and flexible frames were proposed to absorb this swaying movement, and successfully stay standing after an earthquake has passed.
Being the tops of buildings, roofs were the first components to consider when thinking of safer structures. In the past, heavily-tiled roofs that collapsed were found to be responsible for numerous deaths after buildings with these collapsed. To prevent this, engineers developed much more flexible materials for roofing, which were much more shock-absorbent. Testing these involved putting materials through shaking tables, which test a building’s durability and flexibility.
A crucial component in an earthquake-resistant building is its weight distribution. Lighter walls and thinner floors reinforced by steel create a downward force while still maintaining the ability to sway side-to-side. Columns in the centers of these buildings are then required for support.
An amazing example of a structural feat capable of enduring numerous earthquakes is Japan’s Horyu-Ji Temple. Its remarkable ability to survive several earthquakes is due to the huge central pole inside the temple, which essentially acts as a pendulum. When an earthquake occurs, the temple’s structural movement is transferred to the pole, effectively balancing and swaying gently. Buildings all over the world have utilized this architectural feat, as it has, quite literally, stood the test of time.
With everything that has been developed in recent years to prevent building collapses during earthquakes, there is no doubt that newer technology and newer architectural strategies will arise, making the future of civil engineering extremely promising.