A team of engineers at Stanford University has come up with a breakthrough method of constructing earthquake-resistant homes. The significance of this is the fact that their new method is inexpensive and rather easy to implement.
The engineers recently completed a prototype of a house built using this method. It is a two-story home, which has what they call a “unibody” design. Instead of screwing drywall onto the wooden frame of the home, it was glued on. On the exterior, the white stucco façade is kept in place with sturdy mesh and screws.
Rather than constructing it on a traditional type of foundation, the home was place on so-called “seismic isolators.” These are comprised of 12 steel-and-plastic sliders, each of which measures about 4.5 inches in diameter. Galvanized steel plates and bowl-shaped dishes were placed beneath these sliders.
They tested the model home on an earthquake simulator on which they reproduced a 6.9 magnitude quake. The seismic isolators allowed the house to slide from left to right, acquiring no damage in process. But the building did take some damage when they turned the simulator up to the maximum setting.
Seismic isolators, in one form or another, are already in the construction of larger structures in some earthquake areas, such as the San Francisco International Airport, so they are nothing new in and of themselves. However, the installation method of the isolators developed by the Stanford team is inexpensive and easy to implement, which is where the true value of this breakthrough lies. Also, according to the researchers, their system would only add roughly $15,000 to the total cost of constructing a standard 2,000 square foot home.
It is also possible to retrofit an existing home with this new earthquake-resistant technology. However, for it to be most effective, it is best to apply it directly to a new build, which would, according to the researchers, take four additional days to install.