Falling under the category of natural disasters, the mere mention of earthquakes does not paint a very good picture. And rightfully so… the uprooting of families, the havoc within people, the loss of life, and the list goes on! However, in earlier times when the typology of structures was typically closer to the ground, not reaching a very substantial height, there would be scope to rush to open space for minimal damage. But in the present scenario with high rise buildings jam-packed close to each other, there is left no option but to make the buildings strong enough to withstand the tectonic activities taking place in the region.
The field of Engineering and Architecture is fortunately on a constant roll in devising newer technologies and implementations day by day that takes us a step closer to a safer tomorrow for our inhabitants.
The following are the ten buildings that were designed with specialized features to withstand the lashes of earthquakes:
1. TAIPEI 101, Taiwan
Architect: C.Y. Lee and Partners
Year of completion: 2004
Standing 508 m tall, making it the 10th tallest building in the world as of 2020, Taiwan’s giant has had to have gone through complex engineering and clever architectural planning that went into building this structure (construction began in 1998). The building uses the tuned mass damper (TMD) approach to counteract the swaying this structure may experience in events of an earthquake. There hangs a ‘ball of steel’ weighing 730 tonnes acting as a centralized pendulum that is designed to oscillate away from the lateral bend of the building to neutralize the effect of the earthquake. Despite having such a dense and heavy profile, it manages to appear intricate and aesthetic to a viewer.
2. Utah State Capitol building, USA
Architect: Richard K. A. Kletting
Year of completion: 1916 (with later seismic upgrades in 2004)
This neoclassical Corinthian styled classic colonnaded façade of a structure resembles the strength and repose a government building was once intended to. However, there were quite a few later innovations that were introduced to the structure’s foundation to deal with the earthquake situation in the region. It was designed to withstand up to 7.3 magnitude earthquakes while keeping the classical aura of the building intact. This base isolation system bears 281 lead-rubber laminated base isolators attached to the building foundation with the help of steel plates. In the event of an earthquake, every hard impact is absorbed by the rubber isolators while also gently shaking the building back and forth, so there is no damage or collapse.
3. Petronas Twin Tower, Malaysia
Architect: César Pelli
Year of completion: 1999
This iconic structure remained the tallest skyscraper in the world well until the year 2004. This still, however, remains the tallest twin tower in the world at a whopping height of 452m. The two glass towers are connected with a centralized 2 storey bridge. This feature is not only aesthetic addition but also is designed to slide in and out of the building every time there seem to be substantial lateral loads acting upon the building.
4. Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Architect(s): Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill
Year of completion: 2010
The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa Bin Zayed, is an architectural marvel standing tall and safe. All thanks to its advanced architectural and structural system designed to withstand earthquakes ranging from 5.5 to 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale. It is equipped with a mass dampener/harmonic absorber within the structure to absorb the vibrations. The minaret inspired building was once introduced to some tremors due to the Iran earthquake in 2008, but the structure remained unharmed and intact.
5. The Yokohama Landmark Tower
Architect: Hugh Stubbins
Year of completion: 1993
The beauty of technological advancements is that it eventually makes up for the human errors that were made in the past (well, for the most part). Similarly, as we humans occupied and inhabited the geologically active island chains, regions like Japan are at a high risk of an earthquake. The buildings actively respond to the same very efficiently as well… the Yokohama Landmark Tower is no exception. This building equips within itself a Hybrid mass damper (a combination of tuned mass damper and an active control actuator) as well as something called “bandage pillars”. These are earthquake resisting pillars that are designed with the help of resin fibres that essentially may allow some chunks of the pillar to fall off but prevent it from collapsing in case of an earthquake.
6. Citigroup Center
Architect: Hugh Stubbins
Year of completion: 1976
What makes this building a rather unique addition to the New York skyline is the 410-ton concrete tuned mass damper added much later into the structure. It was the first building in New York to equip the same… the initial structure was provided with much weaker bolded joints, making it a structurally unsound and hazardous building as the lateral loads were said to be too much load on them.
7. U.S Bank Tower, USA
Architect: Henry N. Cobb
Year of completion: 1989
Situated in the seismically active area of Los Angeles, this is the second tallest skyscraper in an earthquake-prone zone following Taipei 101. This structure is designed in a way that it can withstand an earthquake of up to 8.3 magnitudes on the Richter scale.
8. One Rincon Hill South Tower, USA
Architect: John C. Lahey
Year of completion: 2008
The rather unique feature about this high-end residential tower is the tuned liquid mass damper atop the 60 storey structure. It is essentially a 5 feet tall tank filled with 50,000 gallons of water that flows the opposite side of the sway to decrease the impact on the inhabitants.
9. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Turkey
Architect: HEAŞ (Airport Management & Aeronautical Industries Inc)
The confluence of three major tectonic plates in the City of Istanbul makes it a major earthquake-prone area. Resultant of which came the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. With the ability to withstand an earthquake up to the magnitude of 8 on the Richter scale. The computer-simulated triple friction pendulum isolators help the structure not only stay aloft in the event of an earthquake but also start functioning right after the passing of the same.
10. The Transamerica Pyramid, USA
Architect: William Pereira
Year of completion: 1972
This San Francisco high rise was designed in such a way that it reflects some sunlight to its neighbors, considering the tiny heights of the buildings around. Along with those features, it also is very efficient in terms of earthquake resistance. The building is said to rest on a steel and concrete foundation that is engineered to move along with the earthquake giving subtle sways to the structure itself. The tower survived a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in 1989.
In this never-ending road down the structural lane, there will always be a constant need to keep improving and experimenting to adapt and survive against natural calamities while experiencing minimal damage to property, as well as life. We may not have figured everything against saving one’s structure completely against the mighty quake, but we are surely in a hopeful place.