“A Slower, Smoother Slide:” Stanford Profs Test Earthquake Tech That Could Save Homes

Discs would let homes roll over rumbling

A Stanford engineering professor has developed a home that's survived over a dozen of the world's most destructive earthquakes.

Professor Greg Deierlein is testing his "seismic isolator" technology through simulated earthquakes at a facility in San Diego. He thinks the small discs he's developed to sit between the structure of a home and its foundation could be the key to a truly earthquake-safe home.

"When you think about large tracts of development, townhouses being built on these isolators, it could totally mitigate one of the large risks we face here in California," Deierling said.

Lots of earthquake research has gone into protecting bridges and high-rise buildings, Deierlein said, but his focus is on single-family homes and apartment buildings.

Using this system, a series of seismic isolators are placed on a steel plate below the structure, above the foundation. They're meant to let house roll over the shaking below.

Deierlein's model home survived unscathed simulated earthquakes, like the 6.8-magnitude 1994 Northridge temblor, even though the home shakes back and forth by up to 15 inches.

"It's just sliding back and forth, but it's not a very violent slide, rather a smoother, slower slide," said Eduardo Miranda, another Stanford engineering professor working on the project.

Tests say the homes can survive the worst earthquakes seen in human history, according to Miranda, a survivor of the deadly 1985 Mexico City earthquake that killed at least 10,000.

The idea of earthquake safety preparation is to save lives and make homes more resilient, according to Dr. Lucy Jones, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the city of L.A.'s earthquake czar.

"The biggest growth decade in the history of Los Angeles is the decade after the 1906 earthquake, as people abandoned San Francisco and moved south," Jones said.

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