Anton Kalafati Explains Principles of Earthquake-Resistant Construction
Anton Kalafati is the Founder and President of B Side Construction in California. All builders in this state must be intimately familiar with the unique challenges posed by seismic activity and in the article that follows, Anton Kalafati discusses the basics of earthquake-resistant design and construction.
Much of California is currently positioned along the San Andreas fault line—an area where two tectonic plates are slowly pulling apart to create more landmass. Unfortunately, Anton Kalafati explains that this unique location predisposes California to earthquakes. With mini tremors happening on a nearly daily basis, engineers have to construct California homes and businesses to withstand possible earthquakes.
Anton Kalafati says that by strategically choosing materials and constructing buildings to withstand ground tremors, Californian construction crews are able to build earthquake-resistant homes. Let’s explore the fundamentals of earthquake-resistant construction and learn how buildings along the San Andreas fault line survive daily quakes.
Anton Kalafati on Base Isolation
Anton Kalafati says the most important factor in earthquake-resistant construction is the base isolation of the building. Base isolation is the process of separating a building from its foundation so that during an earthquake the building can move independently from the ground. This prevents the structure from collapsing under its own vibration.
One common method of base isolation is to place a layer of rubbery material between the building and its foundation. This material absorbs the shock of an earthquake and prevents the building from being damaged. Another method of base isolation is to place the building on a series of rollers. Anton Kalafati of B Side Construction explains these rollers allow the building to move slightly during an earthquake, preventing it from being damaged.
Another factor in earthquake-resistant construction is the use of dampening devices. Dampening devices are devices that are used to absorb the energy of an earthquake and prevent it from damaging the building according to Anton Kalafati. Although there are a few historic examples of dampening devices, the two most common types in modern engineering include:
- Pendulums – Pendulums are hung from the roof of the building and swing during an earthquake, absorbing the energy of the quake. By transferring the energy into a pendulum motion, the building can remain relatively stable despite the tremors below.
- Tuned mass dampers – Tuned mass dampers are large pistons placed between columns on every floor. They essentially work like shocks on a vehicle to absorb energy if the building ever begins to shake
Thanks to these two technologies, buildings can withstand strong tectonic activity without collapsing under their own weight.
Shear walls are another important factor in earthquake-resistant construction. Anton Kalafati explains that shear walls are walls that are designed to resist the force of an earthquake by “shearing” (shifting) when the earthquake hits, helping the building to maintain its shape.
Shear walls are usually made of wood or concrete and are reinforced with steel. They are typically placed around the perimeter of a building and are often staggered so that they can better resist the force of an earthquake.
This shearing motion helps prevent the earthquake from damaging the rest of the building by giving the walls enough flexibility to shift along an internal cross beam. Anton Kalafati takes a closer look at these beams below.
Cross bracing is another important factor in earthquake-resistant construction. Anton Kalafati says cross bracing is the process of placing beams of material (usually steel or wood) diagonally across a building. These beams help to resist the force of an earthquake by keeping the building from moving too much.
Cross bracing is often used in conjunction with shear walls. The two systems work together to resist the force of an earthquake and keep the building from being damaged. When an earthquake hits, the cross braces maintain a sturdy structure while the shear walls absorb energy and transfer it by moving back and forth. The core of the building remains strong while the outer shell displaces the tremors.
Futuristic and Traditional Earthquake-Resistant Building Materials
In recent years, Anton Kalafati reports that engineers have shifted away from standard building materials, such as steel and wood, in favor of futuristic memory alloys and highly flexible yet traditional bamboos:
- Memory alloys – Memory alloys are alloys that have the ability to “remember” their original shape. They are often used in building construction because they can be bent or deformed without breaking. When an earthquake hits, the memory alloys will deform to absorb the energy of the quake. Once the earthquake is over, the alloys will return to their original shape.
- Bamboo – Simple bamboo can bend without breaking, making it an ideal material for earthquake-resistant construction. When an earthquake hits, the bamboo will flex to absorb the energy of the quake without snapping under the stress.
Although these materials are unorthodox, they’ve greatly contributed to the structural integrity of building positioned along tectonic plates.
Earthquake-resistant construction is a field of engineering that is constantly evolving according to Anton Kalafati of B Side Construction. As our understanding of earthquakes grows, so too does our ability to build structures that can resist their force. Thanks to base isolation, dampening devices, shear walls, cross bracing, and new building materials, we are now able to construct buildings that can withstand even the strongest earthquakes.