By: William Harris


As there occured devastating earthquakes in Türkiye, tearing cities apart and causing deaths of thousands of people, it is emphasized that science will play a key role in saving lives. Below are some examples concerning how to construct buildings that resist earthquakes.

**The Levitating Foundation

Engineers and seismologists have favored base isolation for years as a means to protect buildings during an earthquake. As its name suggests, this concept relies on separating the substructure of a building from its superstructure. One such system involves floating a building above its foundation on lead-rubber bearings, which contain a solid lead core wrapped in alternating layers of rubber and steel. Steel plates attach the bearings to the building and its foundation and then, when an earthquake hits, allow the foundation to move without moving the structure above it.

Now some Japanese engineers have taken base isolation to a new level. Their system actually levitates a building on a cushion of air. Here’s how it works: Sensors on the building detect the telltale seismic activity of an earthquake. The network of sensors communicates with an air compressor, which, within a half second of being alerted, forces air between the building and its foundation. The cushion of air lifts the structure up to 1.18 inches (3 centimeters) off the ground, isolating it from the forces that could tear it apart. When the earthquake subsides, the compressor turns off, and the building settles back down to its foundation.

**Shock Absorbers

Another tried-and-true technology to help buildings stand up to earthquakes takes its cue from the auto industry. You’re familiar with the shock absorber -the device that controls unwanted spring motion in your car. Shock absorbers slow down and reduce the magnitude of vibratory motions by turning the kinetic energy of your bouncing suspension into heat energy that can be dissipated through hydraulic fluid. Turns out they can be useful when designing earthquake-resistant buildings. Engineers generally place them at each level of a building, with one end attached to a column and the other end attached to a beam. Each damper consists of a piston head that moves inside a cylinder filled with silicone oil. When an earthquake strikes, the horizontal motion of the building causes the piston in each damper to push against the oil, transforming the quake’s mechanical energy into heat.


Keywords: earthquake, Turkey, Türkiye, building, construction, engineering, shock absorbers, foundation, column,


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