Last edited 24 Mar 2021

Earthquake resistant building materials

Rescue teams in Natori, Japan search for missing people in the aftermath of the 2011 quake.


[edit] Introduction

Seismic events known as earthquakes occur when the earth 'shakes' due to the release of energy below its surface. This energy can be caused by natural events (such as volcanoes or landslides) or occasionally by human activity (such as mine blasts or underground nuclear experiments) and can cause significant damage to structures in their path.

Several building materials have been developed to improve the resilience of structures to earthquakes.

[edit] Fibre reinforced paint

In 2014, a team of researchers at The University of Tokyo introduced glass-fibre reinforced paint referred to as SG2000. Headed up by Kenjiro Yamamoto, the team began experimenting with techniques that could be used to retrofit masonry structures in areas where earthquakes were likely to occur.

Their research resulted in the development of SG2000 - a coating made from standard acrylic-silicone paint resin and glass fibres. During laboratory tests, the coating, which is simple to apply to existing structures, was able to help keep bricks connected after mortar joints - which had been covered with the coating - were broken (thus reducing the likelihood of injury caused by falling bricks). It also showed that the coating - which did not increase the test building’s stiffness - allowed masonry structures to bend rather than break or collapse.

[edit] Earthquake resistant concrete

In October 2017, the University of British Columbia introduced a seismic-resistant, fibre-reinforced concrete. Referred to as eco-friendly ductile cementitious composite (EDCC), the material is engineered at the molecular scale to be strong, malleable, and ductile, similar to steel—capable of dramatically enhancing the earthquake resistance of a seismically vulnerable structure when applied as a thin coating on the surfaces.

EDCC combines cement with polymer-based fibres, fly ash and other industrial additives, making it highly resilient, according to UBC civil engineering professor Nemy Banthia, who supervised the work.

To test its effectiveness, the product was sprayed on walls to a thickness of 10mm, which was deemed sufficient by the research team. The test walls were then subjected to high levels of vibration (equivalent to the magnitude 9.0–9.1 earthquake that struck Tohoku, Japan in 2011) and other types and intensities of earthquake. After passing all tests, EDCC was given its first real-life application in the seismic retrofit of a Vancouver elementary school.

The research was funded by the UBC-hosted Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence IC-IMPACTS, which promotes research collaboration between Canada and India. IC-IMPACTS has made EDCC available to retrofit a school in Roorkee in Uttarakhand, a highly seismic area in northern India.

Other EDCC applications include resilient homes, pipelines, pavements, offshore platforms, blast-resistant structures and industrial floors.

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