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Building 'belt' to quick fix quake-damaged homes

Posted on Jan 14 2014 | IANS

London, Jan 14 : Rebuilding homes to bring life back on track after a devastating earthquake isn't easy.

But, now a new and cheap technology that can make damaged buildings safe and habitable in practically no time is here.

Scientists at University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, have developed a technology that involves wrapping metal straps around each floor of the building, which are then tensioned either by hand or using compressed air tools.

It is designed for use on reinforced concrete frame buildings - a common construction technique around the world.

"The strapping works very much like a weight-lifter's belt, by keeping everything tightly compressed to reduce tension on the concrete columns of the structure," explained professor and lead researcher Kypros Pilakoutas from University of Sheffield.

Tests showed that a damaged building repaired using the technique could withstand a major earthquake - measuring around 7 on Richter scale.

"Our method not only makes the building stable again very quickly, but it increases the building's ability to deform without breaking, making it more able to withstand further earthquake movement," said Pilakoutas.

The team tested the technique on a full scale, two-storey building which had inadequate reinforcing to withstand earthquakes.

The building was constructed on a specially designed 'shaking table' which can simulate ground movement caused by earthquakes.

During the first test, the building was near collapse following a small earthquake similar in scale to a magnitude 4 on the Richter scale.

The building was then repaired using the post-tensioned metal straps.

Once done, the researchers were unable to make the building fall during a simulated earthquake measuring 7 and stopped the test.

"The new technology may not only speed up the response to major earthquakes but may also prevent the damage happening in the first place," said Pilakoutas.

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