The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Monday, 16 March 2015 04:09cat

Japanese Seismic Success Serves as example to Northwest

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Japanese Seismic Success Serves as example to Northwest Allison Pyrch

Constructed in 2006, just outside Kadonowaki, Japan, the Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital stands as a monument to civil engineering. The five-story, 402-bed hospital operated at full capacity during and immediately after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the east coast of Japan in 2011. Surrounding the building like a moat, the hospital’s base isolation system enabled its survival without even a broken window. The steel springs and rubber dampers of the isolation system, that support the hospital, reduced the horizontal displacement of the building to just 26 centimeters. Engineers, also, estimate that several more earthquakes of similar magnitude can be sustained before the base isolation springs need replacement. Japan’s long history with earthquakes has fostered a significant culture of seismic design and much of its infrastructure is useable after an event.

This is not the case in the Pacific Northwest, according to geotechnical engineer and ASCE seismic investigator Allison Pyrch. In Oregon, even so-called seismically engineered buildings will likely have to be torn down if they sustain an earthquake of magnitude 9.0, which scientists expect to occur in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, just off the Pacific Coast, in the near future. Chris Goldfinger, a paleo-seismologist with Oregon State University, cares deeply about the preparedness in Oregon because he understands the underlying science tells us the Northwest is due for a large earthquake.

While visiting Ishinomaki Red Cross, Goldfinger stated, “I work on earthquakes in my office…and it’s a bit abstract. But here in Japan it’s not abstract. You see exactly how the earth interacts with people and that’s where it departs from the science and becomes a societal issue.”


Source PBS

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