Giant pendulums could save Japan skyscrapers from earthquakes

The historic magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck eastern Japan back in March of 2011, setting off a cascading chain of events that ultimately resulted in an ongoing nuclear catastrophe, was unfortunately not "the big one" that has been predicted to strike Tokyo for many years. In anticipation of the Tokyo's next major seismic event, developers have been working on ways to reduce the potential damage. Two Japanese companies have unveiled plans to retrofit older skyscrapers with a device that could help to reduce the impact of major quakes on the buildings and potentially save lives in the process. 

Kajima Corp. and real estate developer Mitsui Fudosan have designed a system that would put what are essentially giant pendulums at the top of city skyscrapers as a means to stabilize the buildings as they sway during an earthquake. The first building to use the system will be a 55-story building in the Shinjuku district (Tokyo's version of midtown Manhattan) that will use six pendulums weighing 300 tons each. According to the developers, the system has the potential to reduce swaying by 60 percent. 

I happened to be in Tokyo during the 2011 earthquake, and it was quite startling to see the glass towers surrounding one of the city's most heavily populated areas sway so violently, particularly considering the fact that the quake's epicenter was roughly 230 miles away. In the weeks following the quake, the major topic of conversation among friends and business associates turned to speculation about how the buildings might fair if the epicenter had been in Tokyo. 

Given those considerations, it's even more troubling to think that this new pendulum system is, as of now, only slated to be attached to one building as opposed to the entire city. The video below offers a brief glimpse at the principles behind the system as well as displaying exactly how much a building's swaying can be reduced.   

Via Asahi Shimbun

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