A Value Case for Seismic Isolation of Residential Buildings

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Francis, Tom
Sullivan, Timothy
Filiatrault, Andre

Seismic isolation is an effective technology for significantly reducing damage to buildings and building contents. However, its application to light-frame wood buildings has so far been unable to overcome cost and technical barriers such as susceptibility to movement during high-wind loading. The precursor to research in the field of isolation of residential buildings was the 1994 Northridge Earthquake (6.7 MW) in the United States and the 1995 Kobe Earthquake (6.9 MW) in Japan. While only a small number of lives were lost in residential buildings in these events, the economic impact was significant with over half of earthquake recovery costs given to repair and reconstruction of residential building damage. A value case has been explored to highlight the benefits of seismically isolated residential buildings compared to a standard fixed-base dwellings for the Wellington region. Loss data generated by insurance claim information from the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake has been used by researchers to determine vulnerability functions for the current light-frame wood building stock. By further considering the loss attributed to drift and acceleration sensitive components, and a simplified single degree of freedom (SDOF) building model, a method for determining vulnerability functions for seismic isolated buildings was developed. Vulnerability functions were then applied directly in a loss assessment using the GNS developed software, RiskScape. Vulnerability was shown to dramatically reduce for isolated buildings compared to an equivalent fixed-base building and as a result, the monetary savings in a given earthquake scenario were significant. This work is expected to drive further interest for development of solutions for the seismic isolation of residential dwellings, of which one option is further considered and presented herein.

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