Concrete Suppliers and Researchers are Creating Innovative Products to Build Safer, Earthquake-Resistant Structures
Earthquakes are unpredictable natural disasters that threaten our homes, buildings, and safety. And while we don’t have any control over earthquakes, we can take precautions to make our structures as safe as possible, especially when devastating earthquakes hit.
One proven way to build stronger, safer homes and buildings is by using reinforced concrete. Concrete suppliers offer reinforced concrete products to build earthquake-resistant structures. Researchers are also creating earthquake-resistant concrete products to upgrade schools in earthquake-prone areas.
Insulating Concrete Forms
With the use of steel-reinforced concrete and insulating concrete forms (ICFs), concrete contractors are building structures that can withstand the strong forces of earthquakes. For a structure to be earthquake-resistant, it must have the following characteristics: stiffness, strength, and ductility (flexibility).
The optimal building design for earthquake-resistance includes:
- Shear walls that are well-anchored to the foundation—using steel reinforcing bars across the joint and between the walls and foundation;
- Walls that are the entire height of the building on all four sides; and,
- Solid walls with minimal openings, such as windows and doors.
Reinforced concrete walls using ICFs can withstand an earthquake’s strong sideways forces, known as racking and shear. The strength of concrete cast around steel bars provides the ultimate earthquake-resistant foundation and walls. The concrete is strong enough to resist the compression forces of earthquakes, while the steel reinforcement bars are ductile enough to resist tensile forces.
Compared to other building designs, such as wood-frames, un-reinforced concrete or masonry, and column-only ground floors in multi-story buildings, reinforced-concrete structures are significantly stronger and able to withstand earthquakes while experiencing minimal damage.
Eco-Friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite (Edcc)
In an effort to build safe, earthquake-resistant structures, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have recently created a composite material that is strong and ductile like steel. EDCC is a fibre-reinforced concrete product that, when sprayed 10-mm thick onto the surface of poured interior concrete walls, will enhance the structure’s earthquake resistance.
Upon testing this product, researchers found that it is able to withstand earthquake forces of up to 9.0-9.1 magnitude—the same severe earthquake magnitude that devastated Tohuko, Japan, in 2011, and led to a devastating tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdowns.
High-risk schools in British Columbia and India will be the first to use this earthquake-resistant concrete product since these areas are prone to earthquakes. BC plans to eventually upgrade all high-risk schools as part of an earthquake protection retrofit program.
Aside from saving lives, EDCC is also eco-friendly. This composite is mostly made from fly ash—an industrial by-product—polymer-based fibres, industrial additives, and little cement. Cement production is a large contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, so it’s quite sustainable to develop a product that relies very little on cement production.
Devastating earthquakes can happen at any time, leaving entire cities at risk of injury and death. And like all natural disasters, there is nothing we can do to prevent this devastation, but we can take steps to prevent as much damage as possible. Reinforced concrete products from concrete suppliers and researchers are leading the way for safer, earthquake-resistant structures that will save buildings and lives.