Earthquake-proofing techniques

It is said that earthquakes don’t kill people, but buildings constructed not to withstand them do. There are many factors which contributed to the deadliness of the Kashmir quake and poorly constructed buildings are just one of them. There is little we can do about the terrain and the density of population hence it would seem logical to make sure that the new buildings that are constructed will be able to withstand future quakes.

Key buildings in need of better earthquake-proofing have been identified in Delhi, and work is under way. Similar plans elsewhere have come too late to help the hospitals in Indian Kashmir. Though it is impossible to make buildings completely resistant to earthquakes, they can be made much safer. In both India and Pakistan, building codes exist; in both countries, they have been poorly enforced, with masses of unprotected housing stock in areas of great danger.[Preparing for the unknowable]

As a person who has survived multiple earthquakes, I can say that since I was inside buildings built to code, I am still alive. But it seems Kashmirs have a way of construction called bajji-diwari system which is capable of withstanding quakes.

The system, with wooden frame and special nogging (placement of bricks), ‘‘proved to be quake-resistant’’, Arya said. The team includes seismologists and engineers. ‘‘Though Uri is in ruins (because of indiscriminate and excessive use of stone and mortar for walls), in Baramulla we found that buildings constructed in the bajji-diwari style had suffered the least damage. Some of them, even very old ones, developed only a few cracks,’’ he added.[Wood and brick homes withstood Saturday Shiver]

Even the folks who built Qutub Minar had ideas on how to withstand earthquakes.

‘‘Saturday’s recordings show that while Delhi shook, Qutub stood still. There has been no damage and no noticeable vibration was recorded. Though the data is being closely analysed, we can say that certain architectural facets of the Minar and its design patterns helped Qutab withstand the tremors. Materials used in construction, wall thickness and proportionate base weight and the corresponding height besides stones used for construction helped Qutub withstand the shocks.’[When Delhi shook, Qutub stood still]’

There is a lot to be learned from both local and ancient construction techniques.

2 thoughts on “Earthquake-proofing techniques

  1. Earthquakes are a usual thing here in California, so all building are built here to withstand earthquakes. Even the bridges are built keeping this in mind.

  2. Very knowelegeable post on earthquakes. Thank you.
    Reminds me of an interesting incident. During the Kutch earthquake three years ago, I being a Gujarati recd calls from Gujarat telling us not to send anything in cash and furthermore not to give money even to the Prime Minister’s relief fund. Now who can insulate us from these human earthquakes:-
    One can undertake
    measures to insulate against the earthquake
    However another entity that needs to shake
    Are politicians who are fake
    God alone knows when they shall awake.

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