Architects have always been tasked with great challenges to overcome when designing buildings for both residential and commercial use. There are so many different areas of the world where there are pressing concerns that have a direct impact on how residential properties are designed and constructed. One area where architecture is crucial is in areas of the world where there is the potential for earthquakes to occur. The architectural concerns of buildings in earthquake zones are very different from those in areas without any concern like this. How should an architect design a building to be prepared for earthquakes?

In most cases over the years, the vast majority of injuries and fatalities in the aftermath of massive earthquakes, are not caused by the earthquakes themselves, but with the collapse of buildings. Earthquake-proof buildings must therefore be a priority in areas where there is a real danger. The seismic waves of an earthquake (and any aftershocks) can cause complete destruction of buildings and infrastructure, cause injury and fatalities, and cost immense amounts of time and money to repair and for the loss itself.

The shockwaves that are sent out from the epicentre of an earthquake head out in all directions throughout the ground. Buildings are generally designed to be able to handle forces that hit it vertically, due to the weight of buildings and gravity. Problems can be seen when there are forces coming from side-to-side, as is the case with shockwaves from earthquakes. The walls, floors, columns, and support infrastructure, will all vibrate, causing stress, and in the worst cases the rupture of supporting frames. When this happens, a building can collapse entirely.

The design of an earthquake-proof building is very different to any other type of building. The building must be able to push the other way when facing energy hitting it from one side. The foundations must be flexible, isolating the foundation from the ground and ensuring that only the base moves when an earthquake hits. Another option is to counter the forces with the use of damping shock-absorbers, much like you see used within motor vehicles. This can be achieved through the installation of vibrational control devices on every floor, or a large weight pendulum that moves opposite to an earthquake’s movement when the time comes.

Of course, there is more to designing and building earthquake-proof buildings, including the use of concrete and plastic rings that are intended to divert shockwaves away from a building, and also clever design features that reinforce the structure of a building as much as possible. The use of innovative materials to strengthen the core of a building in an earthquake zone goes a long way to improving standards.

Aesthetically, architects for buildings that must be earthquake-proof, these buildings can still be incredible pleasing on the eye, as long as sustainable, sturdy materials are used within the construction to assist with the design features that counteract the impact of shockwaves from an earthquake. It is a delicate matter to protect buildings from earthquakes, but with experienced architects, earthquake-proof buildings can be built to great effect.