Our living planet is an ever changing entity often prone to violent earth shifts. In specific zones earthquakes are commonplace and the need for steel building design for earthquakes is a very necessary safety consideration. The unpredictability of earthquakes makes it necessary for buildings to be earthquake ready at all times.
Many years and many millions of dollars have gone into research surrounding the subject of earthquake resistant building materials and designs. Steel designs have been discovered to have greater resistance to the forces of nature than concrete. Steel can flex and absorb shock waves whereas concrete shatters.
Steel has become a mainstay in the construction of earthquake resistant buildings due to its highly ductile nature. The material alone cannot save a building, but the way that it is designed and used within the overall structure is integral to the durability of the structure during an earthquake.
The number one factor for consideration before any other is the weight distribution of the structures within the design. For earthquake safety, the lower stories should contain the bulk of the weight, using lighter materials for the construction of the upper stories. A top heavy future steel buildings is far more likely to tumble in an earthquake than one where the bulk of the load is nearer the foundations.
Traditionally steel rebar is used to form a large part of the structure of any building, but the weight balance should be mostly concentrated in the lower regions of said building. As each new floor is added the construction should consist of light weight materials. Keep in mind that many large structures are capable of having thousands of people in the structure at any one time and safety should be a high priority.
Careful design and construction can save the lives of thousands of people in the event of an earthquake. It can also minimize repair costs after the earthquake. Poorly designed buildings can topple as the earth shifts, damaging surrounding buildings and the general infrastructure of the entire area.
The successful design elements are many, but a few standard ones include the use of trusses, eccentrically braced frames, diaphragms, concentrically braced frames and shear walls, to name but a few. The inclusion of diaphragms is so that the horizontal forces can be more easily absorbed and dissipated throughout the frame of the structure.
An important point to be considered when designing the building is what it is going to be used for and designing it in such a way that it will best distribute the inertia forces created by any earthquake. A library, as an example, should be positioned on the ground floor of a building rather than several stories up. Always place heavier loads closer to the ground as a rule.
Symmetry is favourable for a stronger structure as is the use and incorporation of I bars, boxed W bars, flanged cruciform, box sections, H bars and I sections. Asymmetrical designs have a lower structural integrity to withstand the forces exerted on a building during an earthquake, but again, clever design is the key.
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