15 Building Products Designed to Withstand Natural Disasters
While many buildings these days are designed with the same basic principles, there are times when exceptions need to be made.
For instance, commercial buildings out west in San Francisco and Los Angeles might require additional considerations to ensure that construction is more resistant to the likes of earthquakes.
On a similar note, buildings that are constructed in areas that are likely to encounter severe weather, whether it's during the winter months, during the summer months or all year round, are likely to require a construction design that makes such structures more resistant to high winds.
Thankfully, when there are special circumstances, there are also some specialty products available to compliment building design. On that note, here's a look at 15 building products that are designed to help structures stand up better to earthquakes and high wind:
Lead-Rubber Bearings: Many commercial buildings in areas with the potential for damaging earthquakes are constructed on an isolating base, which essentially puts the entire building on top of springs or bearings so that the building essentially "floats" above the ground. Lead-rubber bearings are one of the most popular products incorporated in these isolating bases, as they are both stiff and strong, thereby able to support a structure vertically. At the same time, they are also very flexible, helping the building to stay intact while the foundation takes all the impact.
Steel: Specifically, we're talking about structural steal, or steel products like beams and plates. Steel is an ideal solution for solidifying a building, whether it's to withstand high winds or earthquakes, because it offers good ductility. In other words, when compared to brick and concrete, steel better offers buildings the ability to "bend" without breaking or cracking.
Concrete: Steel isn't the only material that's good for holding up in natural disasters. In fact, the most secure buildings feature an array of different materials. Concrete is one of them. Concrete is resistant to wind that can be generated from natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. In fact, when it comes to high winds, it's usually not the winds themselves that pose a big threat - it's the debris (i.e. trees) that often gets hurled by the wind that have the big potential to cause damage. Testing has shown that concrete wall systems are better able to resist structural damage when struck by debris. The strongest construction materials are reinforced concrete, which is often best accomplished via insulated concrete forms, or ICFs.
Rocking Frames: A rocking frame is sort of like structural steel on steroids. Specifically, this frame consists of steel frames, cables and fuses - all designed to rock up and down when an earthquake strikes, keeping the frame intact the entire time. Then, after absorbing the impact of the quake, the building will reposition itself thanks to the flexible frame.
Reinforced Glass: Though costly, reinforced glass can be installed in buildings. This type of glass, which is thick and laminated to offer better protection, is able to stand up to winds that reach speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.
Trusses: These products are designed to support the diaphragm, or the heart of, a building. Specifically, they are diagonally-shaped pieces that fit into certain areas of the building's overall frame.
Shear Walls: Another key component in earthquake-resistant building design, shear walls are vertically applied and designed to stiffen a building to prevent rocking. They're most common around elevators and stairwells, where walls without any sort of openings exist. While this differs from the rocking frame concept we discussed above, it's one of the most tried and true ways that buildings have been constructed to withstand quakes in the past.
Hip Roofs: Hip roofs are those that have their ends and their sides inclined, which make them more aerodynamic and thereby more resistant to damaging winds. Because hip roofs don't have any sided ends to catch wind, they're ideal for commercial structures - and homes - in hurricane climates. Though more expensive and generally more complex in construction, these types of roofs can often be the difference between a home enduring extensive damage or not.
Tie-Down Straps: Hip roofs are one thing, but another good idea for buildings in areas of high wind is to acquire and install tie-down straps. These straps are designed to provide enhanced security when it comes to keeping the roof intact. What's more is that today's tie-down straps don't just connect the roof to the support beams, but can also be installed to secure the roof all the way down to the base of the building.
Reinforced Doors: Just as there is reinforced glass to prevent windows from bursting during periods of high winds, there are also reinforced doors that can be purchased and installed on buildings. However, just like the reinforced glass that we talked about earlier, these reinforced doors are also on the expensive side.
Damping Systems: Damping systems integrated into buildings are designed to act as shock absorbers in earthquake situations. That is, when heavy weight is applied to the top of a building and connected to dampers, the severity of vibrations are reduced. Damping systems can either be integrated within the entire building or built on a smaller scale, such as just in the brace system of a commercial structure.
Invisibility Cloak: While this may sound like a product from the fictional world of Harry Potter, it's actually a fairly new innovative application that can be used to make buildings more resistant to earthquakes. Specifically, this product is designed to make a building immune from the surface waves that earthquakes emit. It's accomplished by burying special rings below the surface of the building, which in turn work to compress and capture waves from earthquakes, letting them pass through so that no harm is done to the specific building.
Shape Memory Alloys: Recent research between the University of Nevada (Reno) and the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation has discovered that shape memory alloys are materials that are able to endure a heavy amount of strain and not break. The research could mark a significant discovery in the search for more earthquake-resistant building materials, as well as an ability to better reinforce bridges and other structures that could be damaged by quakes.
Solid Pipes: In the event of an earthquake, rigid, solid pipes have a tendency to bend and break, potentially causing more than just structural damage - but water damage as well. That's why flexible pipes are recommended for buildings in earthquake zones, as these pipes will bend and move with the structure rather than snap off when up against resistance. Not only does this keep pipes secure, but it also can help prevent leakage.
Furniture Straps/Anchors: A simple, yet effective product - especially in earthquakes where structural damage isn't the only threat. There's also the threat of moving heavy objects. Hence, strap heavy furniture to the wall and considering anchoring the likes of bookcases, desks and more to prevent them from tipping and potentially causing even more injury. While heavier furniture might require more robust products, you may even be able to carry out the anchoring of smaller appliances and office furniture yourself.