The science behind building construction has come a long way over the years, and today’s buildings tend to be much stronger and sturdier than those that have come before. However, there are still stories of recently-built buildings collapsing unexpectedly, such as the Champlain Towers condo building in Surfside, Florida.
In the wake of that collapse, scientists and engineers have suggested that attitudes towards infrastructure and construction may need to evolve drastically in the years to come in order to prevent similar tragedies from occurring. But this is far from a new phenomenon. Throughout history, mankind has consistently sought to find ways to make buildings better and stronger.
Different methods and materials have been used throughout the ages to protect buildings and safeguard their inhabitants, but it’s only recently, with the advent of modern technology, that big breakthroughs have started to be made. Thanks to these exciting advancements in engineering, the future looks bright for buildings worldwide. Here are some of the top technologies that can help to strengthen buildings and reduce the risk of collapse, earthquake damage, and other events.
For many years, base isolation has been targeted by engineers as a key method to make buildings stronger. It’s all about isolating the substructure of a building from the superstructure above. Recently, Japanese engineers have built on this idea to give us the “levitating foundation”, in which the superstructure of the building is actually supported on a thin layer of air, effectively levitating above its base.
The concept is complex in theory, but relatively simple in action: the building’s base is fitted with a powerful air compressor and a series of sensors. If the sensors detect seismic activity, the air compressor activates, forcing air between the building and its base, lifting the mass of the structure to isolate it from the forces in the ground.
Many people are familiar with the idea of shock absorbers. We often associate them with automobiles, where they are used to absorb the energy of impacts in crashes and collisions, thereby reducing the risk of injury to the people inside the car. Well, shock absorbers can also be used in building construction too, designed to absorb energy from seismic waves. They’re designed to essentially transform kinetic energy into heat energy, via a physical process known as damping.
Shock absorbers, or dampers, can be positioned on the different levels of multi-storey buildings, connected to cylinders filled with oil that can absorb the heat energy. If an earthquake or other seismic event occurs, the dampers push into the oil, transforming the energy of the quake into heat energy and thereby protecting the building.
Many people rely on fuses around the home in various devices and appliances. These little electrical components serve as a form of protection against electrical fires and overheating appliances; if the current in an electrical circuit gets too high, the fuse blows, breaking the flow of electricity to prevent any further damage or risk.
Well, scientists a Stanford University and the University of Illinois have been looking at ways in which fuses can actually be used to prevent buildings from falling down or getting damaged during earthquakes too. The fuses, made of steel, are positioned between the frames of the building or at the bases of columns of a specially designed, flexible structure. Then, if an earthquake occurs, the fuses are effectively able to absorb seismic energy, and even if they “blow”, they can be replaced quite easily and cheaply.
Carbon Fiber Wraps
In many cases, these new technologies are designed to be incorporated in the construction of brand new buildings, but what if there was a way to protect older buildings from future damages by providing them with some kind of shield or reinforcement against seismic waves and other effects? Well, scientists believe they might have the answer in the form of carbon-fiber wrap.
This special kind of wrap, known as FRP or fiber-reinforced plastic wrap, is made with different types of carbon fibers and binding polymers like epoxy and vinyl ester. It’s a very strong yet lightweight material that can be retrofitted around existing support columns of old buildings, giving them a new level of strength and durability.
These are just some of the ways in which modern technologies are changing the game for construction engineering, helping to make current and future buildings safer, stronger, and more reliable than ever before, potentially saving lives and averting disasters in the process.
The Indian construction industry is one of the biggest industries in the country. According to the latest statistics, the industry contributed more than Rs 6708 billion to the Indian economy in 2011 to 2012. The industry also provides employment to more than 35 million people directly and indirectly all over the country. With a steadily improving economy and a richer middle-class, the industry is expected to double or triple as first time buyers start looking for their own dream homes, states StandardsBis.
The Issue: Building Safety Standards?
Although the industry is profitable, it is fragmented with large nationalized companies, mid-range builders, and small companies and contractors, all vying for a share of the market, according to AsiaConst. According to a recent census, there are about 200 large commercial construction companies, about 120,000 smaller Class A Companies, and several thousand more companies working independently in the construction and associated industries. Although this is good, it also gives rise to a haphazard industry that has no regulation regarding construction standards, pricing, sales procedures, legal disclosures, and the like. Ideally, The National Building Code of India, 1983 (NBC) is applicable all over India and has to be followed by all states. India does have the national building code to provide specifications for every part of a building. Before the building opened for occupation, a building inspector usually checks every part of the building and ensures that safety codes are followed. However, a problem arises here again states Asiaconst.
Apart from the building code, all construction projects are also subject to Central and State laws simultaneously. As a result, building bylaws tend to change with every city and each city has its own nodal agencies like the LDA, the GDA, the KDA, etc. to deal with building permits and verification of building codes. As a result, there is no uniform code applicable on all buildings in India to ensure safe homes built with high-quality materials. These variable construction standards frequently result in shoddy buildings that collapse under the least stress. In fact, according to the TOI, about seven people die in building collapses every year in India.
Builders also have to get individual permissions or building approvals from over 40 different state and Central agencies. These agencies will sanction the use of land, provide land conversion permission, environmental clearance, clearance from the Aviation Authorities, Archaeological Survey Of India, Plan Approval Authority, Pollution Control Board, local police authorities, legal clearance, Central Ground Water Authorities, etc. This may seem complicated but each agency will assess the land and the surrounding area for its feasibility for construction. Most builders spend more than 40 percent of their construction income on acquiring permits but these permits do ensure that the property is built on legally clear land that is safe and environmentally secure. Builders are legally required to follow the NBC, acquire the permits, gain NOCs from the relevant authorities, and then start construction on the project to ensure basic safety measures are meant.
All these permits, building safety requirements, land cost, quality construction materials, professional staff like civil construction staff, architects and engineers, equipment, labor, etc. raise the cost of the building and are transferred to the buyer. As the Indian economy improves, these factors turn more and more expensive resulting in properties that range anywhere from Rs 12, 00,000 to about Rs 5 crore in value, states EngineeringCivil.
For Buyers: Finding Economical and Safe Homes Is an Issue?
As a buyer, you have to be proactive enough to check the licenses and permits acquired by your builder. Ideally, the builder will provide a complete dossier of information on the permits and licenses they have acquired for their project. If you are not sure on how to check the permits, it is a good idea to refer to the IFC Doing Business website for a quick checklist of permits. Another quick way to verify safety standards is by inquiring about loans. Builders who tie up with banks are much more likely to acquire all the safety paperwork well in advance. This is because banks tie up with construction companies to provide mortgages on the property. Before they collaborate with the firm, the bank’s in-house verification team will carry out an intensive check of projects paperwork, licensing, legal and financial status and this is a simpler way to assure yourself of construction quality. Projects like economical homes by Unitech Group tied up with local banks are also likely to be much more affordable due to the automatic local approval process for buyers. If you find the property expensive, it would be a good idea to research other buildings and projects in the area in realtime and online to assure yourself of rates. You can also check with local real estate agents and brokers to ensure you are getting the most economical and safe houses in your favored project.
At least six people are dead, several are missing and dozens are injured in East Harlem buildings collapse after a gas leak sparked a powerful explosion leveled the New York City blocks.
Rescue crews began searching the debris on Wednesday evening for victims after the fire was finally put out.
Train services to and from Grand Central Terminal have been restored after a complete halt earlier.
As the search-and-rescue operation continued under floodlights on Wednesday night, the emergency services confirmed that the death toll had risen first to four, then to five and to six, with several people still missing.
Earlier, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference from the scene that the gas leak had been reported to the utility company 15 minutes before the blast on Wednesday morning.
Bill de Blasio said the “major explosion” had destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged other structures.
East Harlem explosion destroyed two buildings and smashed nearby windows
As night fell, rescue crews were finally able to search for victims in the debris after the fire raged for most of the day.
Heavy equipment, including a bulldozer, helped clear the remnants of two multi-storey buildings. Thermal imaging cameras were brought in to identify bodies or pockets of fire inside the mountain of debris.
The New York fire department said 22 people had been hurt, but a tally of local hospitals by ABC News found that 64 had been admitted with injuries as a result of the incident.
That figure included seven children, one of whom was in a critical condition.
The utility company, Con Edison, says a resident in a nearby building reported smelling gas shortly before the explosion.
Streets and pavements around the site were littered with broken glass from shattered windows.
The blast scattered debris across nearby rooftops, correspondents say, destroying adjoining five-storey buildings in a largely Latino working-class neighborhood.
Witnesses reported the powerful blast knocked items off shelves in nearby stores.
At least 12 people have been killed in the City Light hotel collapse in the southern Indian city of Secunderabad, police says.
At least 18 more people were injured when the two-storey hotel came crashing down on Monday morning.
Police said it was not clear how many people were trapped under the debris at the hotel, located near Hyderabad.
At least 12 people have been killed in the City Light hotel collapse in the southern Indian city of Secunderabad
Correspondents say such incidents are common in India and are often blamed on poor construction practices.
About 25 people were working at the hotel, located on a busy road in Secunderabad, when one of its kitchen walls collapsed, burying some of the employees, senior police official B Surender told the AFP news agency.
“The building was very old and the walls showed cracks, according to people working nearby,” he added.
Last month, nine people were killed in two separate building collapses in the western city of Mumbai.
In April, 74 people were killed in another building collapse on the outskirts of Mumbai.
At least six people have died and other 14 have been hurt after a building collapsed in the centre of the city of Philadelphia, officials say.
A four-storey building fell down, sending debris on to a building housing a bustling Salvation Army shop.
The collapse happened around 10:30 local time in the Center City neighborhood.
Emergency services frantically used their bare hands to rescue 14 people from the rubble of the Salvation Army shop after it came down on the corner of 22nd and Market at 10.45 a.m – the cause is yet unknown.
The building was being demolished, though the cause of the collapse was unknown, officials said.
Early reports said just one person had died, but rescuers continued working into the night.
Mayor Michael Nutter said the dead included five women and one man.
“If anyone else is in that building, they will find them,” he said.
Apartment building collapses on top of Philadelphia thrift store killing six people
Thirteen people were taken to hospital suffering minor injuries, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.
Late on Wednesday, a 61-year-old woman was pulled alive from the rubble to become the 14th known survivor.
The four-storey building had both commercial and residential spaces.
Several witnesses said they had been concerned about the way the demolition was being carried out prior to the collapse.
“We’ve been calling it for the past week – it’s going to fall, it’s going to fall,” window washer Dan Gillis told the Associated Press.
Earlier, witnesses said they had heard a loud rumbling sound immediately beforehand.
“I was standing there looking out my window, watching the men at work on the building, and the next thing I know I heard something go kaboom,” Veronica Haynes, who was in an apartment building nearby, said.
“Then you saw the whole side of the wall fall down… on to the other building.”
Bernie Ditomo told a local NBC he was driving on a nearby street when he felt something “like an earthquake”.
“I said, <<What the hell is going on?>>,” Bernie Ditomo said.
“My truck is totalled. I am a little dusty and dirty, but I’m alright. I am one of the lucky ones.”
High school student Jordan McLaughlan said he saw several people on the ground being given oxygen by rescuers after the collapse as the air filled with dust.
Authorities asked news helicopters to clear the air over the scene so rescuers could hear people trapped under the rubble.
“This is delicate, it is dangerous work,” Lloyd Ayers said.
Bangladeshi police has arrested two owners of garment factories in the building that collapsed on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka this week killing at least 336 people.
Owners Mahbubur Rahman Tapas and Balzul Samad Adnan are suspected of forcing staff to work in the eight-storey building, ignoring warnings about cracks.
At least 336 people are known to have died after the Rana Plaza in the suburb of Savar collapsed on Wednesday.
On Saturday morning, at least 24 more people were rescued from the rubble.
Rescuers and volunteers, who worked through the night, cheered as they were brought to safety.
Earlier, rescue teams said they had located about 40 survivors on the collapsed third and fifth floors of the building.
Officials said they were working to extricate the remaining survivors and had passed oxygen cylinders and water to those still trapped.
Among those pulled out alive after three days in the rubble was Marina Begum, 22, now recovering in hospital.
Bangladeshi police has arrested two owners of garment factories in the building that collapsed on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka this week killing at least 336 people
“It felt like I was in hell,” she said.
“It was so hot, I could hardly breathe, there was no food or water. When I regained my senses I found myself in this hospital bed.”
More bodies of victims were also retrieved overnight and on Saturday morning.
Some 3,000 people are believed to have been working in the building at the time of the collapse and about 600 are still missing. Rana Plaza housed three garment factories, a bank and a number of shops.
Watching the operation are hundreds of relatives of those still missing, many clutching photographs of their loved ones.
Abul Basar wept as he awaited news of his wife who worked in one of the garment factories.
“My son says that his mother will come back some day, she must return,” he cried.
Mahbubur Rahman Tapas and Balzul Samad Adnan, the owners of the New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Style factories, were remanded in custody for 12 days by a court on Saturday. They were arrested earlier in the day after turning themselves in.
Deputy chief of Dhaka police Shyami Mukherjee said the two were accused of causing “death due to negligence”.
The owners reportedly told their employees to return to work on Wednesday, even though cracks were visible in the building a day earlier.
Three other clothing factories were reportedly operating in the building.
Police are also questioning two municipal engineers who are reported to have approved the safety of the building a day before it collapsed.
The owner of Rana Plaza, Mohammed Sohel Rana, is said to have gone into hiding.
“Those who’re involved, especially the owner who forced the workers to work there, will be punished,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told lawmakers on Friday.
“Wherever he is, he will be found and brought to justice,” the prime minister added.
There is widespread anger in Bangladesh over the disaster and fresh clashes between police and protesters erupted again on Saturday.
On Friday, police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up crowds that had blocked roads, set fire to buses and attacked textile factories.
Protesters are demanding that the government arrests all those responsible for the disaster and improves conditions for garment workers.
Police are guarding other garment factories in the area.
Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap clothing for major Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labor.
But the industry has been widely criticized for its low pay and limited rights given to workers and for the often dangerous working conditions in garment factories.
Primark, a clothes retailer with a large presence in Britain, confirmed that one of its suppliers was on the second floor of the Rana Plaza, and said it would work with other retailers to review standards.
Labor rights groups say the companies have a moral duty to ensure their suppliers are providing safe conditions for their employees.
UK fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has called on fashion brands to insist on safer working conditions for garment workers internationally.
“The price of clothes may be low but they are paid for with human lives,” she is reported to have said at the Vogue Festival in London on Saturday.
“We should demand credible, certifiable inspections on building structures and industry standards.”
She added: “This is a very dark day for the clothing industry.”
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Communist Party and left-leaning Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal party have called a general strike on May 2 to demand punishment for those found responsible for the deaths.
An eight-storey building collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, killing at least 70 people and injuring other 200, government officials say.
Many more people are feared trapped after building collapse and frantic efforts are under way to rescue those beneath the debris.
The army is helping with the rescue operation on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Building collapses are common in Bangladesh where many multi-storey blocks are built in violation of rules.
The eight-storey building contained a clothing factory, a bank and several other shops. It collapsed during the morning rush hour.
Many people have gathered near the scene looking for friends and relatives.
It is not yet clear what caused the collapse but local media reports said a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday.
An eight-storey building collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, killing at least 70 people and injuring other 200
Rescue workers are using concrete cutters and cranes to dig through the rubble.
Local police chief Mohammad Asaduzzaman told the Reuters news agency that factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after the crack was detected.
Police told local media that the rear of the building suddenly started to collapse on Wednesday morning and within a short time the whole structure – except the main pillar and parts of the front wall – had caved-in, triggering panic.
Only the ground floor of the Rana Plaza in Sava remained intact after the collapse, officials said, as army and fire service rescuers equipped with concrete cutters and cranes dug through rubble to pull out trapped people. Many onlookers also joined the effort using their bare hands.
Survivors have described their terror as the collapse began.
“I was in the cutting section of the garment factory and suddenly we heard a huge noise and the building collapsed within a few minutes,” a garment worker told private Somoy TV.
“I removed the rubble and came out with two other workers. But at least 30 other workers in my cutting section were still unaccounted for,” he said.
In November, a fire at a garment factory in a Dhaka suburb killed at least 110 people and triggered a public outcry about safety standards in the industry.
The last major building collapse was in 2010, when a four-storey building collapsed in Dhaka killing at least 25 people and injuring several others.
Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing competitively priced clothes for major Western retailers which benefit from its widespread low-cost labor.
Following November’s fire, Western retail chains who buy from factories in Bangladesh urged factory owners to improve safety standards.
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