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Earthquake Safe Structures

Buildings can be made to withstand earthquakes; pipes can be designed to reduce fire hazard after an earthquake.

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Shake it Till You Break It

Shake it Till You Break It

Credit: Kevin Stanchfield
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86542064@N00/4767617030
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Each of the 7 million people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area lives on top of or very near a major earthquake fault. For them to be safer, they need structures that can withstand the shaking.

Why It Matters

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43899883@N03/5572161199/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

1906 San Francisco earthquake building damage [Figure2]

Seismologists say, “Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.” Almost never does the ground open up and swallow someone. Buildings collapse or bridges break apart. Even if a city could be evacuated before an earthquake, property would still be destroyed. Scientists and engineers must do a variety of tests to learn how to make structures safer. The shaking table at the University of California, Berkeley is one place these tests are done. For the Berkeley researchers, their work is not a casual exercise: The Hayward Fault runs directly under their campus.

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With the links below, learn more about how scientists use models to design better structures. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is the purpose of the shaking table at UC Berkeley?
  2. In what directions does the shaking table shake?
  3. What does the shaking table model?
  4. Is there any other way to test how structures respond in an earthquake?
  5. What is retrofitting? Why is retrofitting an important thing to test in the San Francisco Bay Area?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Kevin Stanchfield; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86542064@N00/4767617030; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: U.S. Geological Survey; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43899883@N03/5572161199/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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