THE ECONOMIST (April 30, 2015)
More than a million people have died in earthquakes in the last two decades. Seismic rumbling between the Earth’s tectonic plates puts some of the world’s most densely-populated countries at particular risk. These plate boundaries are most apparent around the Pacific rim – frequent earthquakes have led to the region’s nickname, the “Ring of Fire”.
Yet for the most part, earthquakes themselves do not pose the greatest risk: Collapsing buildings do. While buildings are generally designed to withstand vertical loads – the weight of their contents and inhabitants – they have not traditionally been built to withstand the side-to-side swaying that a tremor can bring.
It’s possible to design buildings so they’re more resilient to earthquakes – keeping them light and flexible so that they can absorb and distribute the energy of their movement.