Building for Quakes

San Francisco - The current issue of Science has an interesting Policy Forum laying out some of the challenges of building in earthquake country (fulltext here; pdf here). The salient point:

...basic data and analysis are lacking for how buildings and structures perform under the extreme loads produced by earthquakes. Some experts think structural damage prediction models are based largely on opinion. Application of laboratory data is difficult because of soil- structure interactions and difficulties simulating excitations at high frequencies. These limitations are increasingly important as the postearthquake performance goal for critical buildings moves toward immediate occupancy and functionality.

And, of course, the author says the US hasn't coughed up enough research money to solve those problems. Japan, on the other hand, dropped $1 billion on earthquake research and defense after the Kobe quake in 1995. Proofing buildings against quakes also proofs them against terrorist bombings.

I don't disagree, and I'd love to put some state-of-the-art earthquake science to work when I rebuild my new house's foundation. But it's also become kind of de rigeur in the sciences to plead a homeland defense need when you're asking for funding.


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