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Structural solutions for homes in earthquake-prone zones

Blog post   •   Jan 14, 2016 14:00 +08

In the 17th century, Japanese pagodas built from timber reached up to 19 storeys in height. In spite of seismic activity, including a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in 1995, those buildings remained intact. Timber has historically been an ideal material for building in earthquake-prone areas, but is no longer practical in modern construction.

Concrete and steel buildings have several disadvantages compared to timber. The heavy weight, rigidity and solid construction of concrete buildings all contribute to their instability during an earthquake. Timber’s light weight, flexibility and construction techniques help dissipate seismic energy, enabling timber buildings to withstand the forces generated by an earthquake.

Besides using wood to build, however, the challenge to architects and engineers in construction today has been to create energy-efficient buildings that are also earthquake resistant to survive the considerable damage caused by seismic activity in countries like Japan and Taiwan.

PanaHome solutions to building in earthquake-prone areas

Seismic design is a complex issue. Many of the solutions found by architects and engineers are expensive, like base isolation bearings (which act like shock absorbers and dissipate much of the shock from an earthquake), are more appropriate for large buildings and are primarily used to prevent a building from collapsing. They are suitable for high-rise construction, but not so much for individual residential buildings on a mass scale.

Panasonic is a pioneer in home construction, dating back to 1959, when the Matsushita Electric Works Co. Ltd. (now Panasonic Corporation) began developing prefabricated homes for the Japanese market. In 1977, Panasonic adopted PanaHome as its brand name and the company has continued to evolve.

Committed to building homes that would last for generations, PanaHome created the proprietary earthquake-resistant steel-frame PowerTech technology. Leaving nothing to chance, PanaHome subjected the technology to vibration testing. In more than 140 tests, PowerTech proved it could withstand vibrations of four times the intensity of the 6.8 earthquake in 1995 and 1.8 times the intensity of the devastating earthquake of 2011.

The W-PC construction method developed by PanaHome uses prefabricated concrete and steel panels. Prefabrication eliminates the need for formwork, bricklaying and concrete curing, effectively cutting construction time in half.

Earthquake resistant, highly energy efficient and stylish, PowerTech and W-PC technology is currently available only in Japan, but can be adapted to any country where earthquakes are a concern.

Vieuno PRO Homes

Urban density is forcing Japanese builders to create more living and working space on smaller parcels of land. In 2014, PanaHome constructed three prefabricated six-storey model homes in Tokyo and Yokohama. PanaHome’s Vieuno PRO homes are an innovative solution to urban density, combining residential, retail and office space into one. PowerTech technology is incorporated into the design, ensuring the buildings will withstand the test of time.

With more modern solutions to building in earthquake-prone zones, we may finally see a reduction of the devastating consequences of earthquakes in urban and suburban areas throughout the world.

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