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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake-proofing buildings

First off, I want to commend Japan for having done an exemplary job of building their skyscrapers as earthquake-durable as probably any in the world. I also want to commend Japan on their earthquake early warning system. One minute doesn't seem like much of a head start, but it probably meant the survival of many more people than otherwise would have.

However, I would like to posit that it is entirely possible to create buildings which are, for all intents and purposes, entirely earthquake proof.

Imagine, if you will, a luxury hotel with a capacity for 6000+ guests, park-courtyards, playgrounds, swimming pools, restaurants, day-spas and gymnasiums, movie theaters, performance arenas, casinos, shops, and many other recreation facilities.

Now, imagine an earthquake so severe that the ground directly beneath this hotel was violently lifted to a 30° angle. Now imagine that the hotel is lifted violently in the opposite direction an equal or greater amount. And then again from another direction. And another. And another. Imagine that instead of lasting for a few seconds or a few minutes, this violent shifting of the ground beneath the hotel lasts for days, or weeks. Sometimes the entire hotel heaves up suddenly by 10 meters or more, sometimes it falls into a similar sized hole made by the shifting earth, sometimes it slides up or down hills forming and unforming beneath its foundation.

And as this happens, the hotel staff and guests go about their business, mostly unperturbed. The walls do not break, the windows do not break, the floors and ceilings do not crumple. Poorly stowed objects may fall to the floor, unsecured furniture may move about, an elderly patron may stumble and injure a wrist. But that is all.

Such buildings already exist. They are called SHIPS.

There is no reason that a building on land cannot be built with the same techniques that shipbuilders have used for centuries. It is no more expensive than building a ship of the same size, and a land-based hotel has the added advantage of no fuels costs for propulsion. Really, we can do this. And in areas which are prone to serious earthquakes, we need to seriously consider it.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I never thought of that. You could say the same thing for aircraft construction. Very well stated.