If you live anywhere along the Pacific Ring of Fire—or anywhere near the edge of any of Earth’s tectonic plates, you might have experienced an earthquake. Although many earthquakes are too small for us to feel, there are an average of 134 earthquakes that measure 6 or more on the Richter scale, which can cause significant destruction in affected areas. Floods, which can happen anywhere in the world, but would affect low-lying areas and areas near rivers and oceans the most, can be just as destructive.
Thanks to technology, earthquake and flood damage has been reduced significantly over the years in the developed world. However, property damage, death, and injury are still inevitable when it comes to floods and earthquakes. A California-based company named Arx Pax (Latin for “Citadel of Peace”) is seeking to reduce or even completely nullify earthquake and flood damage. They have patented a foundation system that will allow buildings to “hover” over the ground in the event of an earthquake or flood. They plan to use this in conjunction with the ShakeAlert technology that can warn people seconds ahead of an earthquake, according to CBS San Francisco.
According to the patent, “A three part foundation system for supporting a building is described. Three part foundation systems can include a containment vessel, which constrains a buffer medium to an area above the containment vessel, and a construction platform. A building can be built on the construction platform. In a particular embodiment, during operation, the construction platform and structures built on the construction platform can float on the buffer medium. In an earthquake, a construction platform floating on a buffer medium may experience greatly reduced shear forces. In a flood, a construction platform floating on a buffer medium can be configured to rise as water levels rise to limit flood damage.”
While the technology to reduce earthquake damage is prevalent in the developed world, other parts of the world are not as lucky. The recent earthquakes in Nepal claimed 9,000 lives and more than 22,000 were injured. A combination of poor urban planning and lack of strong standards regarding infrastructure in earthquake-prone regions are two factors that lead to loss of life, injury, and property damage in areas around the world that are prone to both. Many historic buildings were also destroyed in the Nepal earthquakes, some of which had stood for hundreds of years.
Greg Henderson, owner of Arx Pax, also said that his technology could also help combat climate change. The hover technology could be used in the Pacific, where low-lying islands are disappearing, or in countries such as the Netherlands and Bangladesh, where land lies below sea level or is prone to annual flooding. “You don’t fight Mother Nature straight on. We’re talking about building in harmony with nature,” Henderson said. “In the developed world, buildings are expendable, and we can do better than that,” Henderson also said, citing the amount of time, money and effort it takes to rebuild in disaster-stricken areas.
Henderson said that his tech will cost only 20% of the building cost, which will offset land costs, which are higher in certain areas such as the Bay Area. In addition, this technology can even allow developers to build where it was once impossible to build. Henderson also said that structures could be moved around easily for flexibility in building, much like pieces of a puzzle.
While the technology is still in its developing stages, Arx Pax is making a big step towards redefining architecture and construction in helping developers be more proactive towards natural disasters. Although floods and earthquakes are still unpredictable, once this technology gets to market, the damaging effects will be reduced or even completely eliminated, saving lives, money and property.