Techniques that help protect buildings from earthquake damage

Written by sara melone
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Techniques that help protect buildings from earthquake damage
Earthquake damage sometimes results in a total loss. (église image by jerome DELAHAYE from

An earthquake is the result of seismic waves that cause severe shaking of the earth's surface. Earthquakes can cause landslides, flooding and tremendous damage and devastation to property. In most earthquake situations, it is the collapse of homes and other building structures that leads to fatalities. If you are designing or building a home, there are certain considerations and techniques to keep in mind to help protect your building from earthquake damage.

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Things you need

  • Wood building materials
  • Rebar
  • Lightweight steel

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  1. 1

    Consider building in wood whenever possible. According to the American Plywood Association, engineers observing California properties following an earthquake found a noticeable difference in the performance of wood-frame buildings to withstand earthquake destruction in comparison to other types of buildings. Wood and plywood panels which are joined with nails offer more flexibility in the construction. As the upheaval of an earthquake rocks a building in all directions, the flexibility of wood construction allows more room for the structure to stretch and bend, resulting in less damage to the building.

  2. 2

    Design your building with a lower height to be more structurally sound and earthquake resistant. Research shows that one-level buildings stand up to earthquake activity better than taller structures. indicates the safest design is a single-story house featuring small windows and a compact plan, with several interior walls for added structural support. Include a large, stable foundation when constructing a taller building. Taper subsequent levels of the building to be narrower at the top than the bottom.

  3. 3

    Use lightweight materials whenever possible. A heavier building is more likely to collapse under the stress caused by an earthquake. Design and construct your building with stone facades rather than stone blocks. Pay particular attention to the roof structure of buildings higher than one story, and make the roof as light as possible. Reid Steel recommends profiled steel cladding on light gauge steel Zed purlins ("Z" purlins in U.S. English) for a strong, lightweight roof.

  4. 4

    Reinforce all concrete with rebar to make the concrete more durable against the force of an earthquake. Concrete is often employed when pouring a home's foundation, and it is used frequently in the construction of larger commercial buildings. Concrete can be fragile in an earthquake and may have a tendency to crack and crumble due to its rigidity. Rebar is made out of supportive steel rods, and it makes concrete more flexible and forgiving so it is less likely to collapse during an earthquake.

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