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Background—Currently, buildings seem to be designed to be strong enough to not fall upon dangerous events, such as earthquakes. This makes them expensive, and out of the reach of poor places.

Poor areas ignore such safety measures, and end up having their buildings collapse on their citizens. This collapse is unpredictable, as people don't really know which area is safe from falling debris or thick reinforced concrete structures.

Thus, I'm thinking of an alternative approach:

  • Let's design buildings, the cheap normal way, and let them collapse upon an earthquake as usual.

However, with 1 caveat:

  • Design them such that, when they collapse, they must collapse in a predictable manner, such that safe-zone cavities are formed in a predictable location.

This caveat helps people go to those safe areas, knowing that—should the building collapse—they won't be smashed by falling debris.

Question—How to create such structures?

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  • $\begingroup$ During an emergency such as an earthquake I don't think the residents of such buildings would be thinking about how the building would be collapsing safely & how to avoid the collapsing zone. Their main thought would be to get to safety as soon as possible. An alternative, which others have tried is to make buildings in earthquake prone regions more flexible so they can move & bend with the vibrations experienced during such events. This way the building largely remain intact, even though it may need to be demolished after the event. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting concept, but it would be worth checking to see how poor places go about constructing their buildings. If they don't follow regulations or codes to begin with it's all for naught. The most important thing for solutions like this is that they are accepted and sustained locally, otherwise you just have a wealthy country solution for an impoverished country. Another thing to note is that a building designed to implode upon sufficient damage might very well collapse earlier and more rapidly than it would otherwise which likely would be even worse. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 20:25

3 Answers 3

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Normal, expensive, earthquake-safe buildings do collapse: they collapse in an earthquake-safe manner, absorbing energy as they collapse, and leaving survivable spaces. Steel is a good material for this use: beyond its elastic range, it has a plastic range, where further distortion results in plastic deformation. Wood tears when collapsed beyond it's elastic deformation range. Traditional Japanese homes were walled with paper. When designed correctly, buildinga collapse in a safe predictable manner.

Buildings collapse unsafely and unpredictably when the ground characteristics change, or when they are poorly designed, or when unsafe materials are used.

Only the last factor is strongly related to the cost of a building. It is mitigated, when there is time, by people attempting to move to safer areas within the building: under tables, or into small rooms with closer walls and smaller spans.

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Designing a building to collapse in a fashion suitable so it falls upon it's footprint, usually how demolition experts plan when explosives are used to dispose of it. It makes little sense to design a building like that.

Buildings must withstand compression, torsion, lateral and shear forces to stay up against weather/Seismic activity. In any case designs to accommodate the poor for buildings that collapse easier? The only way to do that is to make them less strong when actual disasters occur, WHy do that if they're inside when it happens.

Collapsed buildings rarely kill people in disasters, Earthquakes destroy tangible property and assets leaving poor homeless.

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Designing buildings to intentionally collapse isn't a standard practice due to safety concerns. Controlled demolitions, done by experts with precision and planning, ensure safety and controlled debris. For traditional structures, the focus remains on robust design to prevent unexpected collapses altogether

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