Northeastern University Student Designs System for Earthquake-proofing Buildings

Posted by erik devaney

Courtesy of

Chris Nasif didn’t know much about earthquake-proof architecture when he started his co-op program with an engineering firm in Paris, France. But when Nasif’s manager asked him to write a 10,000-word dissertation on earthquake-resistant buildings, the civil and environmental engineering student didn’t back down from the challenge.

Nasif’s recent findings could someday prove helpful to buildings both in New England and around the world. Since the 5.8 Virginia quake of August 23, New Englanders are well aware that our buildings are not immune to seismic activity.

The support system that Nasif developed features steel beams running in a zigzag-like formation. During an earthquake, these beams help transfer forces into the ground and away from concrete, which is susceptible to cracking. As Nasif told New England Post, “Concrete is very brittle, and can fail easily during an earthquake. It is because steel is very ductile and can resist tearing that it has been incorporated into many seismic-zone construction projects.”

Northeastern student, Chris Nasif

During Nasif’s extensive research into earthquake-related building failures, the Northeastern student was not surprised to discover that rigid concrete buildings were the most likely to collapse. “This was more or less my thesis from the start,” he said. However, Nasif was surprised to learn how concrete could actually be useful during earthquakes.

To explain how concrete and steel can work together to keep buildings standing, Nasif gave the example of an engineer and a teacher. “An engineer and a teacher work independently of one another,” he told New England Post, “however, they serve one another when the engineer builds the school where the teacher instructs students on how to be engineers.”

Nasif’s point is that concrete and steel contribute to the stability of a building in different ways, just as people contribute to society in different ways. While concrete can absorb compressive forces (pressing and squeezing), steel can absorb tensile forces (stretching and tearing). By installing steel beams between concrete floors, the two building materials can function independently of each other while still working towards the same goal: keeping a structure standing.

Northeastern University is no stranger to innovative earthquake-proofing technology. As New England Post reported previously, two Northeastern professors recently received a $1.2 million grant to further explore their unusual method for preventing building collapses during quakes (hint: it involves bubbles).

Related posts:

  1. Saving Buildings with Bubbles: Northeastern University Professors Discover an Unusual Method for Mitigating Earthquake Damage
  2. Web Under Construction: A Northeastern University Professor is Giving the Internet a Mobile Makeover
  3. Earthquake Felt in Boston Area; President Didn’t Feel it on Vineyard
  4. Forgiving Student Loan Debt as an Economic Stimulus; What Does a Local Economist Think?
  5. Should the Government Forgive Student Loan Debt? College Grads Say Yes; Economists Say No

Short URL:

Posted by erik devaney on Sep 28 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

Log in | Maintained by BlackDoor Creative