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 Miami building collapse death toll has risen to five, authorities say.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the number unaccounted for has now dropped to 156, with three more of the recovered bodies identified.
She told reporters: “Our top priority continues to be search and rescue and saving any lives that we can.”
Part of the building collapsed early on June 24 while many residents slept.
As yet the cause of the collapse remains unclear.
However, an engineer’s report from 2018 was made public on June 26, which highlighted “a major error” in the original design of the seafront Champlain Towers. It said the fault prevented water draining away from the base of the building.
President Joe Biden tweeted: “My heart is with the community of Surfside as they grieve their lost loved ones and wait anxiously as search and rescue efforts continue. Yesterday I spoke with Gov. DeSantis to let him know that we are ready to provide assistance as needed by state and local officials.”
Rescue teams have been using machines, drones and specially trained dogs in their efforts to find survivors. Rescue efforts were briefly hampered on June 26 after a fire broke out underneath the rubble.
According to reports, the missing include people from Israel and Latin America. Paraguay’s foreign ministry said six of its nationals had been registered as missing, including relatives of the country’s first lady.
Local officials have provided families with hotel rooms and food as they wait for news about their loved ones.
The building contained 136 apartments and 55 of them collapsed early on June 24, leaving piles of debris.
At least four have been killed and 159 are still missing after a12-storey residential building north of Miami.
Rescuers are desperately searching for any survivors trapped in the rubble.
As families desperately wait for news, search teams have been working around the clock and have reported hearing people banging beneath the debris.
What caused the 40-year-old building to collapse early on June 24 remains unclear.
At least 102 people have now been accounted for, but it is uncertain how many were in the building when it came down. Dozens of people have been evacuated from what is left of the structure.
President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for Florida, meaning the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will help state agencies with the relief effort.
Overnight hundreds of rescuers used sonar cameras and specially trained dogs as they scoured the rubble for survivors. Teams were tunneling from an underground car park below the building in an effort to reach victims.
The mayor of Surfside, where the disaster happened, Charles Burkett, said at an early-morning news conference that some 15 families had walked out of the building.
Most residents would have been asleep when the collapse happened at about 01:00 AM local time.
Overnight, search teams detected sounds of banging and other noises, but no voices coming from the tonnes of debris. Officials say the efforts are dangerous as further rubble could collapse on them.
Constant rain and storms are further complicating an already difficult task for the search-and-rescue teams.
Authorities have begun taking DNA samples from relatives of those missing in case only remains of their family members are found in the rubble.
Relatives of the missing have been huddled around a community centre a few blocks away, waiting for information and fearing the worst. They have been putting out appeals on social media for information that could help them find their loved ones.
Rescuers pulled 35 people from the wreckage, officials said. Ten were assessed and treated, of whom two were sent to hospital.
“The back of the building, probably a third or more, is totally pancaked,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told a news conference. At least one person had died, and about 30 units were affected, he said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would travel to South Florida on June 24.
“We are bracing for some bad news just given the destruction that we’re seeing,” he warned, saying he thought the quick response from the emergency services had saved lives.
Police gave the building’s location as 8777 Collins Avenue, the address of the 12-story Champlain Towers, which contains more than 100 beachfront apartments and was built in 1981. Surfside runs along Collins Avenue, north of Miami Beach city limits.
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