Earthquakes are very destructive natural disasters that can occur worldwide. They can cause a lot of destruction to buildings, infrastructure, and homes, often resulting in loss of life and property.
Yes, earthquakes can destroy houses, but not all houses are equally susceptible to earthquake damage. The ability of a house to resist an earthquake depends on several factors, including the type of construction materials used, the design of the house, and the quality of construction.
However, homeowners can take steps to prepare for earthquakes and minimize their impact on their homes. In this article, we will explore whether earthquakes can destroy houses and what factors can impact a house’s ability to withstand an earthquake.
Impact Of Earthquakes On Houses
When an earthquake occurs, the force’s energy shakes the earth and travels through it in waves. It disperses from the source in many directions, similar to how a stone thrown into a pond causes a ripple. The force that is the largest and strongest is closer to the center.
Buildings are often designed to withstand vertical forces like winds, rain, gravity, and weight, but not horizontal forces like waves of force or subsurface forces. The foundations, walls, support beams, and floors vibrate when the ground trembles.
Building integrity deteriorates as the top shakes and moves with different forces and speeds than the bottom. Buildings can tumble, supporting frameworks can break, and foundations might develop cracks.
Watch this video of a building getting demolished due to an earthquake:
Can Houses Be Earthquake-Proof?
There is not a single house that is earthquake-proof. There is not even a single earthquake-proof building as well. We have yet to create anything more powerful than the planet.
We have been able to construct earthquake-resistant buildings thanks to science-supported design methods that use what we know about earthquakes.
Earthquake Resistant Homes
Fortunately, the essential components that keep a structure standing are generally understood. The three qualities of stiffness, strength, and ductility often decide whether a building can withstand an earthquake.
Let’s look at each component to see why buildings without them can collapse when the ground trembles.
Seismic activity during an earthquake exerts strong shear and racking stresses on a building’s walls. These weights can be very challenging for a wall to support, although it is generally merely intended to fight gravity.
Even when built appropriately, if the walls are not tightly connected to the foundation of the building, they may not be able to transfer all of the force from the shaking to the foundation. The key to a wall’s stiffness is steel reinforcing bars extending from the wall into the foundation.
The wall must be sturdy enough to withstand forces after being securely fastened to the foundation. Buildings with numerous openings, such as windows and doors, frequently lack the strength to withstand the strain.
Ductility, the capacity to bend without breaking, is the third element. The earthquake will exert strong forces on the wall. Thus, the wall must be able to bend and rebound without breaking. One such example is concrete.
Concrete is not ductile when pushed together, despite being incredibly strong when crushed. Concrete has a propensity to fracture and split when under tension or while being dragged apart. Concrete can become ductile by employing steel-reinforced concrete.
Solutions To Create An Earthquake-Resistant House
There are several ways to develop a house that covers all of the factors explained above. The following sections will discuss these solutions in detail.
- Importance Of Shear Walls
We can ensure that structures are naturally earthquake-safe by using these three ideas. Shear walls are vertical walls that run from the building’s base to its peak. They are made to strengthen the structure to stop a building from rocking during seismic activity.
Shear walls in a structure can also be found in stairwells and lift shafts. Building codes frequently call for shear walls in places where earthquakes are common.
- Stay Clear Of Unreinforced Masonry Walls
Both load-bearing and non-load-bearing unreinforced masonry walls are susceptible to earthquakes. While very sturdy under normal circumstances, walls tend to crumble and crack when subjected to shaking forces without masonry reinforcement.
If you insist on using masonry walls, think about framing the walls with steel supports and leaving space between the walls and the building frame so that the walls can flex slightly in an earthquake.
- Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs)
Steel-reinforced concrete is a fantastic base material for creating an earthquake-resistant home because of its stiffness, strength, and ductility. ICF consistently performs better than alternatives when compared to other popular building materials.
Rebar is first used to firmly anchor ICF construction to the building’s base. The ICF wall is regularly reinforced with the rebar before concrete is poured to secure everything. The resulting building is naturally resistant to earthquakes.
Additional Precautionary Measures
In addition to some major house changes, here are a few additional precautionary measures that you can follow:
With wire inserted via eye screws into studs, hefty mirrors and images can be fixed over couches and chairs. Avoid placing beds near windows. Never hang bulky items over beds.
Make sure the connections on your gas appliances are flexible. Attach refrigerators and stoves with straps. To prevent cabinet doors from flying open during an earthquake, use locks.
Book Shelves And Hanging Objects
To stop them from toppling, strap heavy furniture like bookcases and shelves to the wall. Safeguard hanging lighting devices like pendants, ceiling fans, and others. Place hefty photos and mirrors over furniture and securely fasten or move them.
Over beds or other areas where you spend time, such as couches in your living room, desks in your home office, or the dining room table, avoid hanging heavy objects.
Earthquakes can cause numerous damage to buildings, infrastructure, and homes, often resulting in loss of life and property. Although earthquakes can destroy houses, the extent of the damage depends on several factors, including the type of construction materials used, the house’s design, and the construction quality.
Homeowners can take steps to prepare for earthquakes and minimize their impact on their homes, such as conducting a seismic evaluation of the house, securing heavy furniture and appliances, creating an emergency kit, and developing an emergency plan with family members.