- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 26 Oct 2017
Sacrificial device for buildings
In October 2017, engineers at Scotland's Heriot-Watt University released details of a ‘sacrificial device’ for buildings they have designed that will absorb the impact of earthquakes or blasts, preventing collapse and reducing the damage and residual drifts that can render buildings uninhabitable.
Current European ‘earthquake-proof’ buildings were designed to prevent collapse in the event of a strong earthquake. However, they do not prevent extensive damage that is difficult to repair, or residual drifts. If buildings experience one or both of these factors, the cost of repairs can become prohibitive, and demolition may be the only viable option.
Dr George Vasdravellis, assistant professor in structural engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, has used experimental testing and computer simulations to prove that his new system minimises the damage caused to buildings up to 10 storeys high in an area of high seismicity, with one in 475-year seismic events.
Dr Vasdravellis said:
"The non-repairable damage and residual deformations that conventionally-designed buildings experience after a seismic event represent a severe socio-economic loss. We need new methods of resilience to tackle this issue.
"The system makes use of 'sacrificial devices' made of stainless steel material. The devices are placed strategically in the structure, so that they are the only damaged components during earthquake loading.
"In the aftermath of a strong seismic event, they can be easily replaced with new ones, so that the building can return to its usual occupation very quickly.
"The inherent properties of stainless steel results in the significant reduction of the residual drifts after a strong earthquake.
"Through experimental testing and numerical simulations, we found that our system had negligible residual drifts under loading corresponding to the 'design earthquake', compared to conventional building designs, which experienced drifts that were four to five times larger."
"In Greece and Italy we’ve watched new areas become seismic, where previously there had been little activity. We must also consider, unfortunately, the impact of explosions or other attacks on buildings that could impose extreme loading conditions.
"The sacrificial devices will mitigate progressive collapse due to explosions, or other extreme events, that result in the loss of one or more columns in the building. Therefore, we are further developing the system for multi-hazard mitigation.
"It is not enough to ‘earthquake-proof’ new buildings; we need simple, effective devices like this that can protect our existing built environment and heritage, minimising damage and costs in the event of a seismic event or blast."
Dr Vasdravellis was awarded £140,000 by the European Commission for the next stage of his research into earthquake engineering.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
There are many ways of classifying types of building. Have a look at our range of building articles.
BSRIA have launched the 'major update' of the go-to design framework guide for building services.
How to get results with building life cycle assessment.
Government publishes a prospectus inviting proposals for new 'garden communities'.
The Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa collapses during rainstorm while undergoing maintenance works.
'Developed design' is a phrase coined by the RIBA for their 2013 Plan of Work. But what does it actually mean?
New green paper published aiming to rebalance the relationship between landlords and residents and tackle stigma.
RIBA calls for a comprehensive ban on combustible materials.
Lump sum contracts can be referred to as ‘fixed price’ contracts, although strictly this is not correct. Find out more here.
Ramboll offer guidance to civil engineers on how to make projects 'off-site ready'.
Government announces its Rough Sleeping Strategy, with further funding for social housing.