New Bracing Technique May Save Skyscrapers During Earthquakes

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The big one is coming. Earthquake that is. And if you're working or living in a high-rise, you've got to be more than a little nervous. Hopefully your building will be built on those Teflon rollers to withstand some of the sway and not come tumbling down like a deck of cards.

If you're really lucky, your building will include the latest earthquake proofing technology. Like the new bracing technique developed by Professor James K. Wight and Associate Professor Gustavo Parra-Montesinos at the University of Michigan. It may allow your skyscraper to withstand a lateral drift of up to 3 percent during an earthquake.

The new technique uses steel fiber-reinforced concrete to create a coupling beam that's easy to construct, cost effective, and needs less reinforcement. Widely used in high-rise buildings, coupling beams connect openings of shear walls like doors windows and elevators.

In testing the new technique, the research team applied cyclical lateral displacements to a drift that exceeded the safety limit and approaching the “collapse prevention” limit. The test measured degree of stiffness, strength retention, energy dissipation, and interstory drift levels.

Results confirmed that a simpler technique using flowable steel fiber-reinforcement concrete could be used. Burdensome reinforcement techniques could be replaced by steel fibers while mixing the concrete. Any subsequent cracks would be narrower, owing to the steel fibers' ability to hold the concrete together. The new technique is also a less expensive, easier to construct, and more flexible way of adding lateral strength to buildings in earthquake-prone areas. The new technique is being implemented in high-rise buildings currently under construction on the West Coast.

For an additional perspective, check out the video, High Rise Earthquake Technology

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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.

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