How California Builders Prepare For Earthquakes

The devestation that an earthquake can cause is nearly limitless. California builders and engineers work on making our homes and buildings safer.

Earthquakes are one of the most devastating of the natural disasters, along with tornadoes and hurricanes world-wide. In the United States, Alaska and California have the highest number of earthquakes annually. This is one of the reasons that engineers and builders in California continually try to better prepare the structures they create and build. The second reason is the fact that the state of California alone is laced with dozens active fault lines. Among these active faults are the San Andreas, Howard, San Gregoria and Newport-Inglewood faults. This makes the chances of an earthquake occurring much greater than almost any other areas of the country.

How do the builders, and engineers, prepare for these earthquakes? There are a number of ways that they have, and are, working on. One way is through new, updated shaking hazard and shaking intensity maps have been made. These maps have been compiled from decades of earthquake information including location, magnitude and frequency of past earthquakes. What this does is it gives engineers, builders and contractors a better indication of where different intensities of quakes are more likely. With this information they can make any modifications to the structure before they lay even break ground on a new structure.

When building a new structure there are many regulations regarding damage control during earthquakes, the first of which is to use quality materials. The use of quality materials adds to the safety and stability of any structure built. If there are any materials used that are not quality this can, and will, effect the entire structure's safety.

Another step is to install a shear wall during the building process. Shear walls are used for roofs, floors or walls. A shear wall is where structural panels are used to bear the pressure of the lateral (side to side) force of ground movement. There are three types of shear walls that can be used in various types of structures: segmented design, perforated design and force transfer design.

For already existing homes there are a few options available to upgrade the stability. One option is to have it anchored to the existing foundation. This is done for some homes built before 1964 and many more homes built before 1938. By anchoring a home to its foundation it heavily reduces, if not eliminates, the risk of a home shifting off of the foundation.

Some homes may have what are called â€Ëcripple walls' (can also be known as knee or pony walls). These walls are short stud walls between floors. They may be in your garage, basement or lower-levels in a multiple-story home. If these are not properly constructed or attached they can cause more damage in a lower magnitude quake. These walls can be sheathed and bolted to decrease their susceptibility to earthquakes.

The more we learn about earthquakes, and how to predict them, the better the engineers and builders will be at creating earthquake-safe homes and buildings. We may never be able to build quake-proof structures but we can make our current structures better able to withstand them.

© High Speed Ventures 2011