The blog entry “Earthquake Resistant Architecture” makes some very good points about how to minimize the damage to buildings in earthquake-prone areas. Some of these techniques have already been shown to be quite effective, but most of them are too complicated and too expensive for use in single-family dwellings. In those structures, cost constraints will demand that simpler, less expensive techniques will need to be employed.
Ordinary concrete construction has already been shown to be very effective for medium-sized structures in Japan. For example, during the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, Tadao Ando’s Water Temple on Awajishima (Awaji Island) survived unscathed even though it was directly above the epicenter of the earthquake. It seems reasonable to assume that this construction method would also work well for smaller structures, like single-family dwellings. Conversely, larger dwellings like apartment buildings would require the same protection as any other large building – systems such as seismic base isolation or damping structure.
The use of concrete construction in smaller buildings is further enhanced by the use of a new material known as “bendable concrete.” In bendable concrete, tiny fibers are added to regular concrete. These fibers constitute about two percent of the mixture and make it more flexible. The resulting material is “500 times more resistant to cracking and 40 percent lighter in weight” than regular concrete. It is also “expected to cost less in the long run.” The formulation of concrete itself is also being studied in an attempt to make it more flexible.
Concrete has already been demonstrated to be a viable construction material for use in earthquake-prone areas. Using bendable concrete promises to further enhance these advantages and provide a practical, affordable construction technique for smaller buildings in these vulnerable areas.