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Japan Creates Earthquake-Proof Levitating House System

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the rising-above dept.

Japan 243

An anonymous reader writes "Japanese company Air Danshin Systems Inc. has developed an innovative system that levitates houses in the in the event of an earthquake to protect them from structural damage. When an earthquake hits, a sensor responds within one second by activating a compressor, which forces an incredible amount of air under the home, pushing the structure up and apart from its foundation. The air pressure can keep the home levitating up to 3cm from the shaking foundation below. In the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster the company is set to install the levitation system in 88 houses across Japan."

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Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205627)

*Balloons*

Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205631)

eom.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205665)

Depends... housing ain't cheap in Japan, and getting a new one may be hellishly expensive when compared to keeping your old one from coming apart.

Also, what's easier, saving the house (and everything in it), or rebuilding from scratch? It's not just the cost of the house you have to keep in mind, but the cost of all the stuff in it, and the expense + time spent living out of a hotel room (or with relatives) until your house gets rebuilt.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (5, Insightful)

Intropy (2009018) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205715)

And with the added benefit of not being crushed to death by rubble in the process!

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (-1, Offtopic)

adawangping (2585815) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206089)

From visions of far-flung rainforests to travel back in time to the chanel wallets cheap [outlet-coachs.net] Roaring Twenties, Milan Fashion Week has been all about escapism –offering a welcome respite from a mood of economic gloom in Italy.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (5, Interesting)

siddesu (698447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205827)

Housing ain't cheap, but most of the price goes into the land, and houses are viewed as somewhat disposable, most people expect a house to last about the lifetime of a generation. There are some companies that run commercials about a "100 year houses", implying this is a long-life structure, so that should tell you what the general expectations are.

Also, I don't believe the "being crushed" argument will be really critical, except in marketing. Most people seem to die from the fires that inevitably follow the earthquakes, not under the collapsed structures.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (4, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205855)

Housing ain't cheap, but most of the price goes into the land, and houses are viewed as somewhat disposable, most people expect a house to last about the lifetime of a generation. There are some companies that run commercials about a "100 year houses", implying this is a long-life structure, so that should tell you what the general expectations are.

Also, I don't believe the "being crushed" argument will be really critical, except in marketing. Most people seem to die from the fires that inevitably follow the earthquakes, not under the collapsed structures.

I'm living in a house that's nearly 100 years old now, and I'm pretty sure the landlord doesn't plan on tearing it down and rebuilding it any time soon. And this house has been through a number of San Francisco earthquakes since it was built in 1917.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205985)

But on the other hand, houses in San Francisco don't tend to substitute shoji screens for walls.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206091)

An awful lot of people died from being crushed to death in collapsed freeways in San Francisco in the large earth quake in the late 80's. Not so much from fires if I recall correctly.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206399)

most people expect a house to last about the lifetime of a generation

You're building them wrong. Most people here expect their house to survive hundreds of years.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205885)

I would think that a weeble house would fare better-and be more entertaining.

Re:Might be cheaper to just rebuild the house. (5, Insightful)

zedrdave (1978512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206203)

> housing ain't cheap in Japan

Housing is very cheap in Japan (cheaply bought and cheaply built).

Land is expensive. Not housing.

The point here is not really to save the house, but saving the people inside.

So (5, Funny)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205633)

The house is not firmly attached to the foundations except by this glorified airbag.

Don't they also get typhoons there?

I eagerly await the Japanese sequel to the Wizard of Oz.......

Re:So (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205641)

You aren't familiar with house or airbag construction, are you?

Re:So (2)

lloy0076 (624338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206179)

"We, Kansas, in detail is not." - translationing "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more" into Japanese and then back again curtesy of translation.babylon.com!

LOL

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206365)

"We, Kansas, in detail is not." - translationing "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more" into Japanese and then back again curtesy of translation.babylon.com!

Translation Party [translationparty.com]

Toto, we're not in Kansas any more
More information at no Kansas Toto, we
Kansas Toto, not about us
About us Kansas State toto
About United States Kansas, toto
About United States Kansas toto

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206211)

Typhoons in Japan are not as powerful as in the US.
They are in general not that strong that they lift houses up.

uhh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205637)

I don't see how this system is going to protect a home against the effects of serious earthquakes (landslides, liquefaction etc.), and it seems decidedly less robust than existing passive earthquake defences in the light of the more common, moderate (M3~5.5) earthquakes which plague Japan.

Re:uhh.... (4, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205677)

Well, if the system is based on the same air curtain setup as a hovercraft, liquefaction is a non-issue. Now landslides OTOH may be a bit tougher to contend with...

Re:uhh.... (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206205)

Well, if the system is based on the same air curtain setup as a hovercraft, liquefaction is a non-issue. Now landslides OTOH may be a bit tougher to contend with...

A landslide just gives you some speed to make good your escape!

Dumbest fucking idea evar (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205643)

I've heard some stupid ideas in my time, but this takes the cake.

Seriously, man. Don't you think there could be a problem with a house that is not actually attached to its foundations?

What's the deal with compressed air levitation. Is it good or is it whack?

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (4, Funny)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205687)

What's the deal with compressed air levitation. Is it good or is it whack?

It's fun [youtube.com]

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (4, Insightful)

Ghaoth (1196241) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205765)

To move a large amount of air requires a large compressor. This is usually powered by electricity. Power often fails in earthquakes.....or does the system come with an instant start generator. You would have thought that they learnt from the recent tsumami. If the standby generators for the pumps of the nuclear reactor had been on the top floor instead of the basement, there may not have been a nuclear crisis. Generators don't like being drowned in salt water.

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (4, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205873)

Power often fails in earthquakes.....or does the system come with an instant start generator.

One likely possibility is that they keep a container of pre-compressed air on standby underneath the house. Then all the system has to do when the earthquake hits is open a valve to let the compressed air escape -- no power source necessary. (of course, this would mean you'd have to make trade-offs between container size, container pressure, and levitation duration... dunno if it would be practical or not)

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (5, Insightful)

orzetto (545509) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206341)

As an engineer that has to do with compressors fairly often (though mostly on paper), I think your idea is much more sensible than installing a compressor. Compressors are hellishly expensive, require regular and competent maintenance (which is also expensive), and are prone to failure (more so than, say, pumps or valves). And anyway, a compressor that can start up and fill that kind of volume in a second is just a pipe dream; the study in the FA probably had a ludicrously overdimensioned compressor idling, and if you have to ask for how much it costs to idle a compressor 24/7 for decades waiting for an earthquake, you can't afford it—that's before considering its noise and how it would make your house uninhabitable.

My bet, however, would be on something like airbag chemicals [wikipedia.org] . They react fast, the principle is well known and only needs to be scaled up. Compared to a valve, it is easier to build a fail-safe solution, and a large high-pressure air tanks will have all kinds of regulatory issues (for good reasons).

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206107)

To move a large amount of air requires a large compressor. This is usually powered by electricity. Power often fails in earthquakes

Hope they remembered to add flexible connectors for all the utilities when they fitted this system.

.....or does the system come with an instant start generator.

Even an "instant start" generator is going to take several seconds to start. So you are going to need a big UPS.

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206297)

How do the cars do it? With electricity? You could bottle up the compressed air in advance. You could generate the air with a chemical reaction. Either way, just like the cars it's probably going to be an expensive system to maintain.

Re:Dumbest fucking idea evar (4, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205987)

I've heard some stupid ideas in my time, but this takes the cake.

Seriously, man. Don't you think there could be a problem with a house that is not actually attached to its foundations?

What's the deal with compressed air levitation. Is it good or is it whack?

Many many houses in earthquake zones (like Memphis TN and surrounding regions) are barely attached to their foundations - often by a few rusting anchor bolts set into aging crumbling concrete. When a moderately big earthquake hits, many of those houses are going to fall off of their foundations, but unlike this Japanese house, they weren't meant to.

Bullshit (0, Troll)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205645)

In other bews, 88 Japanese people just got scammed for a lot of money.

Re:Bullshit (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206383)

Know-it-all Slashdotters chuckle from their parents' basement.

How big is the compressor? (1)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205649)

Add up the weight, washer, dryer, fridge, stove, counter tops, toilet, sink, water heater, computer, bed, my fat ass, a couple of dogs, , wife, some fat kids - what's going to lift all that plus a few tons of house?

Re:How big is the compressor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205749)

Hey, if you're so damn smart, why don't you even try to calculate it?

Force = pressure x area
or
Mass (in kg) = pressure (in Pa) x area (in m^2) / g (9.8 m/s^2)

Just 1/10th of atmospheric pressure over 100 m^2 can support 104 tons. So basically, get a clue, or shut the fuck up.

Re:How big is the compressor? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206251)

Hey, if you're so damn smart, why don't you even try to calculate it?

Force = pressure x area
or
Mass (in kg) = pressure (in Pa) x area (in m^2) / g (9.8 m/s^2)

Just 1/10th of atmospheric pressure over 100 m^2 can support 104 tons. So basically, get a clue, or shut the fuck up.

Houses don't bear their load evenly across the entire floor. The load is transferred to the foundation, so you need to calculate the surface area just of the foundation walls where the load actually rests. So I would suggest it is in fact you who ought to "get a clue or STFU".

Now, I suppose you could retro-fit the house with a new frame underneath so it does bear the load evenly. But if you're going to go through all that trouble to jack up the house and build a new base-frame for it, why not just use an existing technology, for example one which uses hydraulic shock absorbers, instead? Cheaper, proven, uses common machinery, and can provide a lot more than 3cm of tolerance.

Re:How big is the compressor? (5, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205763)

Add up the weight, washer, dryer, fridge, stove, counter tops, toilet, sink, water heater, computer, bed, my fat ass, a couple of dogs, , wife, some fat kids - what's going to lift all that plus a few tons of house?

There's a huge surface area under the house. Figure a house and contents weighs 80,000 lbs, and is 20x40 feet (or 115,000 in^2). So you only need to sustain .7 psi of pressure to float the house. A person can generate that much pressure from their lung - if the house was sitting on a airbag, a person could lift the house just by blowing up the airbag (though it make takes weeks or longer to fill the airbag). But without an airbag, since the air is constantly leaking out from around the house, it takes a huge volume of air to keep the house suspended. A 3cm gap around the perimeter is a huge gap and will require large quantities of air to sustain the pressure.

Re:How big is the compressor? (0)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205909)

A house doesn't sit on the entire square area of the floor space. It sits on maybe an 8-12 inch wide concrete or block wall around the perimeter of the house. So your 20x40 house is sitting on about 11,264 in^2 of foundation. This yields a figure of over 7psi.

Re:How big is the compressor? (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205945)

A house doesn't sit on the entire square area of the floor space. It sits on maybe an 8-12 inch wide concrete or block wall around the perimeter of the house. So your 20x40 house is sitting on about 11,264 in^2 of foundation. This yields a figure of over 7psi.

My house wasn't designed to float on a cushion of air, but I'm certain that if you filled the crawlspace with 0.7 psi of air, it would float by the buoyancy against the underside of the floors. If I were designing the house to float, I'd give it a flat bottom.

Re:How big is the compressor? (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206151)

My house wasn't designed to float on a cushion of air, but I'm certain that if you filled the crawlspace with 0.7 psi of air, it would float by the buoyancy against the underside of the floors

More likely you'd break your house. Since by doing so you've completly changed how forces are acting on the structure. Instead of an air cushion it would be better off to apply thrust only to the parts of the house usually in contact with the foundations.

If I were designing the house to float, I'd give it a flat bottom.

With a slab foundation and designed to distribute its weight evenly over the base.

Re:How big is the compressor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206027)

Exactly, they need to add a skirt like hovercraft

Re:How big is the compressor? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206335)

There's a huge surface area under the house. Figure a house and contents weighs 80,000 lbs, and is 20x40 feet (or 115,000 in^2). So you only need to sustain .7 psi of pressure to float the house. A person can generate that much pressure from their lung - if the house was sitting on a airbag, a person could lift the house just by blowing up the airbag (though it make takes weeks or longer to fill the airbag).

How long would it take for a vaccum cleaner to fill it up? May be, having the air bag constantly inflated could be one way of assuring that it's deployed when there is an earthquake (or may be, it could be deployed through some sort of chemical reaction). In any case, would a 3 cm gap really be enough?

Re:How big is the compressor? (3, Funny)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206277)

Add up the weight, washer, dryer, fridge, stove, counter tops, toilet, sink, water heater, computer, bed, my fat ass, a couple of dogs, , wife, some fat kids - what's going to lift all that plus a few tons of house?

It's Japan. The houses are made of wood and paper. The tatamis floors are the beds. The water heaters are just-in-time. And the dogs are rented (you give them back the same night, or you pay a late fee).

About one inch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205661)

That doesn't seem like much. Am I wrong?

By the way, wouldn't underground houses be better for earthquakes than something sitting on top of the soil?

Re:About one inch? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205709)

Aren't skyscrapers already better for earthquakes than shorter buildings?

Re:About one inch? (3, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205801)

That doesn't seem like much. Am I wrong?

I thought it sounded like too much - you only need to lift it high enough to let it float side to side above the foundation. A few mm would probably be sufficient and wouldn't require as much air to compensate for leakage around the perimeter of the house.

Though maybe building it on teflon skids with breakaway support structure would accomplish the same thing at much lower cost - the support structure keeps the house steady in normal times, and during an earthquake, it breaks away to let the house slide back and forth. After the earthquake you just need to push the house back into place and rebuild the support structure.

By the way, wouldn't underground houses be better for earthquakes than something sitting on top of the soil?

I think I'd rather be on top of the soil in a wood framed (i.e. flexible) house than under ground where there are enormous ground forces trying to cave in the walls.

Here's a quick test of one of the compressors (4, Informative)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205663)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NubZJA4c_Rw [youtube.com]

Seems like it would require an awful lot of force just to float a small house. An interesting idea that might be useful in other areas. But I don't see how this could catch on long term for things like apartment buildings or skyscrapers.

And let's not forget that it wasn't so much the earthquake that devastated Japan. But it was the wall of water that mowed down everything in its path.

Tsunami are much rarer than quakes (4, Informative)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205777)

And let's not forget that it wasn't so much the earthquake that devastated Japan. But it was the wall of water that mowed down everything in its path.

I'm not sure if you're aware, but earthquakes are much more common in Japan than tsunami are. Remember Kobe? There's a list of major earthquakes in Japan [wikipedia.org] that might put things in perspective. Saving houses from substantial earthquake damage would be a major gain for the country.

(Mind, I'm not saying that tsunami aren't an issue -- just that earthquakes are also an issue, and a different problem set.)

Cheers,

Re:Here's a quick test of one of the compressors (2)

mpe (36238) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206085)

Seems like it would require an awful lot of force just to float a small house.

The other problems include:
Lifting it without doing damage to the structure/contents
Needing to accuratly land the house back on its foundations.
How well it copes with vertical movement of the ground.
What happens in the case of ground liquifaction.

Re:Here's a quick test of one of the compressors (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206307)

Large structures sometimes use rubber and metal dampers that allows the structure to "float" in a similar manner. It makes for a much lighter construction as the actual building above the damping system doesn't need nearly as much reinforcement as a traditional earthquake-resistant design. The K supercomputer in Kobe is housed in such a structure, for instance.

i predict this doesnt prevent shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205673)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NubZJA4c_Rw

watching this video makes me LOL.

in japan, you have three types of earthquakes.
the horizontal type depicted in this video.
there is also the vertical type.
then you have the worst of all three, where both are happening at the same time.

3cm of buffer space? maybe only in a horizontal shifting quake.
the other two? forget about it. its pretty sad that people are going to get scammed by this.

Energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205675)

Real useful when there's no power...

Re:Energy? (2)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206095)

So use explosives to create your compressed gas instead. Your newly launched space station will make you the envy of the neighborhood and the terror of missile defense systems everywhere.

bonus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205703)

As a bonus, this system works great during tsunamis too.

Alignment?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205711)

so what happens while the house is levitating the foundation moves and is now 5cm to the left when the house comes down?

Re:Alignment?! (1)

Bastardchyld (889185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205789)

Good point, that was the first thing that I thought of when I read the article. The alignment issue is not so much of an issue, because potentially you could reinflate the bag and push it back, most likely with the help of some equipment.

More bothersome to me is that potentially the house could just shimmy itself right off of the foundation mid-earthquake with the airbag fully inflated and everything. Then it seems like the only thing your expensive little airbag does is protect the foundation itself from damage, which could potentially save some money on the rebuilding costs, but I highly doubt this is why folks would buy it.

Frankly though based on the video of the lady and the guy getting shaked. I wasn't paying too much attention the first time and thought that the lady (on the airbagged chair) was a person and the guy (on the unairbagged chair) was a manequin, which of course made my day when he got up.

Re:Alignment?! (2)

PatPending (953482) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206069)

It looks like there is a robust outer band which encompasses the inner perimeter--much like telescoping tubes, a larger diameter one will "overlap" its inner one, preventing offset.

There is another issue: contamination of the surface. The Google-provided translation is rough but you get the idea (emphasis added):

Usually when the building is air ride on a thin cross-sectional, and basic artificial ground state so that adhesion to the ground, shaking it in a typhoon or clogged or something in between does not have any.

This is a great breakthrough for Japanese... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205713)

film making. Imagine.... ground shaking ... startled cries.... LOOK! Run! It's House-Ra and its coming this way! Oh No! Out-House-Zilla is with him, and now he flies!! Aieeee! Flea! Flea for your lives ... ewwww!

1 sec? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205719)

Isn't that a long time to wait?

I'm sure they've thought of this, but in a house, that's a lot of mass that's been tossed around starting from the 0 mark. It seems at the one sec mark, the structure would already be unstable and that's when you're going to lift it up in the air?

Re:1 sec? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205879)

Isn't that a long time to wait?

I'm sure they've thought of this, but in a house, that's a lot of mass that's been tossed around starting from the 0 mark. It seems at the one sec mark, the structure would already be unstable and that's when you're going to lift it up in the air?

Japan has an earthquake detection network that can give advance warning about a quake, giving a few seconds or longer of advanced warning. Long enough for the compressor to spin up, fill a pre-charge tank and wait for confirmation from a local sensor before dumping the tank and floating the house.

Re:1 sec? (1)

macshit (157376) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206245)

Isn't that a long time to wait?

I'm sure they've thought of this, but in a house, that's a lot of mass that's been tossed around starting from the 0 mark. It seems at the one sec mark, the structure would already be unstable and that's when you're going to lift it up in the air?

Remember though, that although there are different types of quakes, most in Japan don't seem to start at "full power", they ramp up over a few seconds. The March 13 quake for instance, did that.

Also, given Japan's current warning network, anybody not at the epicenter can get a few seconds warning even before the quake is evident locally—though maybe this is a bit pointless as it's exactly those who are at the epicenter that are going to really need the air cushion...

a sensor responds within one second (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205727)

and generating the amount of air pressure to lift a house + all its belongings + its occupants takes how long? what if the power is knocked out in 500ms or less? why not make those rubber bushing systems more affordable instead of involving computer controlled "systems"

Re:a sensor responds within one second (2)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205849)

what if the power is knocked out in 500ms or less?

Not to worry, they've got nuclear power in Japan, it's proven to be very reliable during an earthquake. :^P

Wow! 3 whole centimeters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205739)

And I hear Fukushima has a flood wall to stop tsunamis.

Can't have too many guests (2)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205741)

For planes and airships there's that whole "Oh no we're losing altitude, let's push the fat guy out" trope.

I wonder what's the weight limit for this little gizmo.

Re:Can't have too many guests (1)

Bastardchyld (889185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205805)

Based on the posted video I'd say the weight limit is probably a ~100 lbs asian lady.

Re:Can't have too many guests (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205969)

For planes and airships there's that whole "Oh no we're losing altitude, let's push the fat guy out" trope.

Yes, that was one of the shortcomings of their previous system design [wordpress.com]

Call it... (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205755)

...the Marilyn Monroe effect.

Re:Call it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205793)

the Maliryn Monloe effect.

FTFY

Base Isolation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205775)

Base isolation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_isolation] would be a better idea that doesn't require a ups or continuous power supply for the compressor.

Overlooking it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205803)

It seems like it would make more sense to build all single-family type houses on "stilts" that can flex and should a tsunami come in, the house just floats on top (but is still anchored in place so it doesn't float away.) As far as I can tell it would be like building a "boat" on stilts, if an earthquake hits, the house stilts just flex (eg 8 stilts) and you can replace them if they are compromised. If a tsunami hits, well you may have to reconnect your utility lines (which should have auto-shutoff valves) but that's better than being crushed by the house coming apart or drowning after it's inundated. Save the area under the house for the car.

It's funny really, there are actually many houses that are built in North America that won't last in an earthquake, because building codes are only heavily enforced for large buildings. Anything built before the 1989 Loma Prieta (San Francisco) earthquake, is likely not up to code. That's just 22 years ago. If you live in the Pacific area, you're sitting on a timebomb that can go any day now. I'm taking my chances in this 1960's apartment. I don't think the building would survive a Tohoku style earthquake, but I'm nowhere near any liquefaction area, so the worst that would happen is the damn building collapses on me. Luck would probably have it happen while I'm awake and could dive under my desk, but if it happens while I'm asleep, fucked.

Re:Overlooking it... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205935)

It seems like it would make more sense to build all single-family type houses on "stilts" that can flex and should a tsunami come in, the house just floats on top (but is still anchored in place so it doesn't float away.) As far as I can tell it would be like building a "boat" on stilts, if an earthquake hits, the house stilts just flex (eg 8 stilts) and you can replace them if they are compromised. If a tsunami hits, well you may have to reconnect your utility lines (which should have auto-shutoff valves) but that's better than being crushed by the house coming apart or drowning after it's inundated.

But how high do you build the stilts? Peak tsunami waves after Tohuku hit 40 meters (the waves that innudated the Fukushima reactor complex hit 15 meters).

Save the area under the house for the car.

Some flood prone areas of the US already do this -- build a parking level on the bottom with slotted doors to let the water flow thorugh. My aunt had a house like this and after she evacuated, she thought her belongings were safe, until the flood water levels hit 12 feet -- 2 feet into the living area of the house.

It's funny really, there are actually many houses that are built in North America that won't last in an earthquake, because building codes are only heavily enforced for large buildings. Anything built before the 1989 Loma Prieta (San Francisco) earthquake, is likely not up to code. That's just 22 years ago. If you live in the Pacific area, you're sitting on a timebomb that can go any day now. I'm taking my chances in this 1960's apartment. I don't think the building would survive a Tohoku style earthquake, but I'm nowhere near any liquefaction area, so the worst that would happen is the damn building collapses on me. Luck would probably have it happen while I'm awake and could dive under my desk, but if it happens while I'm asleep, fucked.

I like to think that even my 1917 wood framed rented house will survive (albeit with some damage) a moderate quake, though I've deliberately avoided living in a soft-story building like the ones that failed in the Marina District in the Loma Prieta quote.

As I look for a house to buy, I'm looking for a single story building and plan to pay the $8K or so it will take to do some basic earthquake retrofitting (better foundation anchors and cripple wall bracing). Oddly, this type of retrofitting is opposite of the free sliding house that's described in this article. Maybe poor foundation anchors are the way to go to help ensure that the structure doesn't collapse even if it means the house is totaled after it falls off the foundation.

Don't care about the earthquake proofing (3, Funny)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205811)

I just want a levitating house! Anyone for house air hockey?

Not in the wake of the Fukushima disaster! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205847)

Guys, this is protection against being shaken to bits, not fried by radiation...

OP - think before you write!

Fatal flaw (1)

DanJ_UK (980165) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205857)

Perfect, provided it doesn't knock out power to the ("generators") compressors.

No, wait...

Lateral displacements? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205871)

The quakes in Japan, Haiti and California usually goes along with tremendous lateral displacements, so how will this help?

Re:Lateral displacements? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206007)

The quakes in Japan, Haiti and California usually goes along with tremendous lateral displacements, so how will this help?

Isn't that exactly what this type of system is supposed to protect from? It doesn't matter if the ground below shifts laterally by a few feet, after the quake is over you just power on the compressor and get a few friends to help recenter it on the foundation.

Now a vertical displacement is a much bigger problem with this system...

The Starcrossed (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205881)

Brings to mind the Ben Bova novel [amazon.com] where skyscrapers were actually huge rocket boosters. At the slightest hint of an earthquake they flew out into the ocean for a safe splashdown.

Car analogy please? (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205893)

How much is an "incredible amount" of air? Can someone possibly explain this "air floating" concept in terminology of cars? Thanks.

Re:Car analogy please? (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206123)

500 politicians worth of hot air?

Tohuku Earthquake != Fukushima (4, Informative)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205899)

The earthquake and tsunami was the disaster, not the accident at Fukushima. There were dead people from the nuclear accident and 50,000 evacuated (not counting those in the evacuation zone whose houses have been destroyed by the tsunami) is a lot less worse than the earthquake's and tsunami's 20.000 dead + 500,000 evacuated.

Half a million were evacuated from utterly destroyed houses in an area now prohibited from permanent human habitation because of the tsunami hazard ... and the unwillingness of the Japanese to raise tsunami protection of cities, which reasonably enough was the same height for cities as for nuclear power plants, from 6m to 16m. Strangely enough, there was no finger pointing and no complaints about lacking tsunami protection of cities, where ... well, you know, people live (and died) and didn't get an advance warning of 2 days to evacuate before the tsunami hit.

Re:Tohuku Earthquake != Fukushima (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205929)

Of course, there were no dead people from the nuclear accident - unless you're counting the one man who died from a heart attack in the aftermath. (One crane operator died in Fukushima Daini because of the earthquake and two people were swept away by the tsunami in Daiichi. Not even the explosions killed anyone, because people were warned of elevated hydrogen concentrations by instruments dedicated to just that purpose. The hazard was known [jsme.or.jp] , but the Japanese decided not to do anything about it by upgrading their plants.)

Re:Tohuku Earthquake != Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206153)

Japan should immediately fix a badly damaged condition at this time.
disave [blogspot.com]

thks

Re:Tohuku Earthquake != Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206327)

SHUT UP!

Radiation is scary.
Water is not.

Actual danger is irrelevant, just as this scheme's actual ability to protect a structure is irrelevant. There's money to be made from fear, the last thing we need is kill-joys like yourself bringing up bothersome things like facts and logic.

Ninety-Nine Percenter version? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205901)

So what does the shantytown version look like?

This sounds just as effective as... (1)

Sigvatr (1207234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205905)

...that house in the Simpsons that sprouts legs and attempts to run away, before keeling over and bursting into flames.

Power Outage? (3, Insightful)

SpaghettiWestern (2575627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205923)

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was screwed because most of the power generators were installed in a basement that was subsequently flooded and therefore useless to keep the pumps going to pump fresh seawater in to cool the cores, causing ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors.

From the wikipedia page ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Power_Plant [wikipedia.org] ):
"The reactor's emergency diesel generators and DC batteries, crucial components in helping keep the reactors cool in the event of a power loss, were located in the basements of the reactor turbine buildings. The reactor design plans provided by General Electric specified placing the generators and batteries in that location, but mid-level engineers working on the construction of the plant were concerned that this made the back up power systems vulnerable to flooding. TEPCO elected to strictly follow General Electric's design in the construction of the reactors."

The design basis for [the plant] for tsunamis was 5.7 meters. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres.
Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster [wikipedia.org] , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_T%C5%8Dhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami [wikipedia.org]


So say right that the power to the Air Danshin Systems Inc installation is taken out by an earthquake and there is no 'levitating' to be had? Aftershocks?

I doubt each installation would have its own generator and even if it did it would have to be left running in order to be able to kick in if power was lost.

Lessons learned, maybe not.

What about after the earth-quake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205957)

How about creating a scandal proof safety compliance system, for maybe I dunno nuclear reactors?

mod D[own (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39205979)

1. Therefore it's every day.5..Like I'll have offended

Failure mode in lateral movement (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 2 years ago | (#39205981)

1. House goes up on air cushion.
2. Ground below shifts sideways several meters.
3. House goes down off its foundation.

Re:Failure mode in lateral movement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206283)

If you can think of something within 30s, the engineers building it probably thought of that as well.

Re:Failure mode in lateral movement (2)

JanneM (7445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206315)

4. Everybody survived and most belongings are fine, unlike the house next door that collapsed over its occupants.

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Just checked the date ... (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206013)

It is 1st March, not 1st April. I'm still not convinced, maybe someone got the month wrong.

What about the ups and downs? (1)

boundary (1226600) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206113)

I can understand how this gizmo might protect a house from the side-to-side waves ( P-waves?) that earthquakes create. But not so sure it's going to do much to protect a house from the up-and-down type waves (S- and L- waves)...

Rubber vibration mounts (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206117)

I just think that rubber vibration mounts would be so much simpler.

Re:Rubber vibration mounts (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206319)

Small mounts can handle only small displacements. Large mounts are frequently used for large buildings but are too big for single-family homes and small commercial buildings.

All Slashdot geeks will die during the earthquake! (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206119)

. . . when their basement lairs are filled with compressed air!

. . . um, maybe it's time to think about moving into the attic . . .

Utilities (1)

boef (452862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206171)

One would assume that there would be some interesting flex connectors on things like water/ sewage/electrics etc. I did not notice anything in TFA (well, I only glanced OK). On the other hand, I suppose 3cm is not THAT much movement to deal with....

Roller skates ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206239)

... and some big rubber bands ... in 2 directions.

Not all waves are equal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39206241)

Sure that might save your house from the P-waves , but what happen when the S and L waves come and your house goes up and down. Pop goes the House!

What if... (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39206243)

...the ground moves more than 3cm (in any direction)? It happens in major quakes; the 2006 tsunami was the result of the sea floor dropping over 2m. I've been through a 5-pointer [thisisnottingham.co.uk] , and the ground certainly moved more than 3cm, although it did move back as rapidly as it shifted. That one moved my entire house probably four inches and back, causing major structural damage (buckled window and doorframes, two cracks from foundation to roof) which is still being repaired after four years.. almost to the day, in fact(!).

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