Letter: There are those who find it quite exciting when the earth moves

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Sir: In the aftermath of the Los Angeles earthquake, various experts have been describing how buildings in earthquake-prone regions can be protected against damage. Those which I heard yesterday on the media tell us that the orthodox way is to build rigid, extra-strong buildings.

Orthodox this may well be, but the most important consideration in the design of earthquake-resistant buildings is protection of the inhabitants and contents. Many injuries are caused by flying contents and, in the case of buildings such as hospitals and other emergency services, protection of the contents is of paramount importance. There is good evidence that the use of rigid buildings may make matters worse in this respect.

Not far from Los Angeles, in the town of San Bernardino, there stands a large new building that was constructed using the method called 'base isolation', whereby the building is isolated from the vibrations caused by earthquakes by being mounted on a rigid base and supported on rubber blocks. This system minimises damage not only to the building, but also to its inhabitants and contents.

This particular building has behaved well during recent minor earthquakes, and a number of similarly protected buildings have been constructed around the world. The same method is now being adapted for use with small low-cost buildings of the type used in developing countries.

It seems a pity that those seismologists, civil engineers and architects who talk to the public on the media seem to be unaware of this important life-saving development.

Yours faithfully,


Secretary to Board

The International Rubber

Research and Development Board



19 January