The threat of an earthquake toppling an older building is one that many facilities managers take seriously, particularly those who live in areas prone to this natural disaster. A recent invention by researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), offers FMs and building owners a tool to give occupants more time to flee the building, and to help prevent widespread structural damage to the facility.
KIT researchers developed a type of fabric that can be applied to building walls to make them better able to withstand the shaking of an earthquake without sustaining grave damage. The material was developed to reinforce and protect critical infrastructures such as hospitals, schools and rest homes in order for occupants to have more time to safely leave the building. In fact, the researchers hope that in some cases the material can prevent structural damage altogether.
For several years, KIT developers Lothar Stempniewski and Moritz Urban have investigated possibilities of low-cost retroactive securing and reinforcement of earthquake-prone walls of older buildings, they say. They invented a glass fiber plastic fabric with four fiber directions. By means of an appropriate plaster, this special seismic fabric is applied onto the respective facings.
According to KIT, the high stiffness and considerable tensile strength of the glass fibers in the quasi plaster-integrated fabric allow walls to better reduce higher tensile stresses during earthquakes and avoid immediate damage from occurring and developing into cracks.
Should the fibers rupture in spite of their strength during a heavy earthquake, the elastic polypropylene fibers are designed to hold the broken wall segments together and keep them off the escape routes. Under advantageous conditions, the walls may even stay intact and buildings could be repaired after the earthquake, KIT developers add.