Preparing For 'The Big One': Spray-On Concrete Could Protect Old Buildings In Earthquake

Oct 12, 2017

Thousands of old, brick buildings in the Northwest are especially prone to collapsing in a big earthquake.

Now, researchers at the University of British Columbia say they’ve come up with a cheap way to reinforce such buildings.

They say their spray-on concrete will let old buildings survive even the biggest quakes.

A video from UBC shows a concrete wall shaking in a lab test until it collapses on the floor. 
But spray about a half inch of a new fiber-reinforced concrete on it, and you get a very different result. Even with shaking twice as strong as the big Cascadia subduction quake that’s heading to our region someday. 
The coated wall bends instead of breaking.

“It’s bendable concrete, actually,” says UBC engineering professor Nemy Banthia. “This is a very, very inexpensive method.”

Cost has been building owners’ main objection to making their historic buildings safer. The seismic concrete is made mostly of ash left over from coal-burning power plants. So it doesn't harm the climate like regular concrete does. 

It should get its first real-world use later this month. It will be sprayed onto an elementary school in Vancouver, Canada. 

Copyright 2017 KUOW