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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Natural Disaster


Quakeproof Construction

January 15, 2010 - 3:12 PM | by: Ron Ralston

The earthquake in Haiti killed thousands of people… in contrast about 60 people perished in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

These stats led us to the University of Nevada Reno where engineers at the Large Scale Structures Lab are testing the effects earthquakes have on homes and office buildings.

Professor Ian Buckle, an earthquake expert who studies structural integrity under extreme conditions, tells Fox News, “Quakes don’t kill people… buildings do.”

Inside his lab he has four “shake tables” – huge platforms that replicate powerful quakes such as the 6.7 that hit Northridge California in 1994.  Haiti was a 7.0.

According to Dr. Buckle powerful quakes don’t have to be devastating.  In most developed countries they can be costly but usually have relatively few causalities.

Building codes are the first line of defense… Haiti has little to none.  Their buildings, made  mostly of under re-enforced concrete and masonry, collapsed when the quake hit.

In the U.S. we build homes mostly out of wood frames and tie them together with metal straps that generally prevent the buildings from collapsing.

Photo Gallery
The "Shake Table." Photo by Mike Wolterbeek
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  • The
  • From left to right: un-re-enforced cinder block wall, un-re-enforced wood structure, re-enforced wood structure with tie together with metal straps. Photo by Mike Wolterbeek
  • The re-enforced wood structure is the only thing left standing after a 6.7 quake.  Photo by Mike Wolterbeek