• Quake-vulnerable concrete buildings in Los Angeles area identified

    Researchers have identified nonductile concrete buildings constructed before roughly 1980 in the Los Angeles area. This category of buildings is known from experience in previous earthquakes to have the potential for catastrophic collapse during strong earthquakes. Nonductile concrete buildings were a prevalent construction type in seismically active zones of the United States before the enforcement of codes for ductile concrete which were introduced in the mid-1970s. A companion study estimates that approximately 17,000 nonductile reinforced concrete buildings are located in the most highly seismic areas of California. More than seventy-five million Americans in thirty-nine states live in towns and cities at risk for earthquake devastation.

  • Israel considering earthquake-proofing important Biblical-period structures

    Israel is located in one of the world’s earthquake-prone areas, along the friction point of the African and Arabian tectonic plates.Officials in Israel are taking preventative measures to protect the country’s most important ancient sites from earthquake damage. Engineers from the University of Padua in Italy have installed sensors throughout the Tower of David, one of Jerusalem most important historical sites, to determine what sort of earthquake-proofing may be needed. Some experts opined that in the event of an earthquake, Jerusalem’s most ancient structures might actually be the city’s most dependable. “If they still stand after so many earthquakes during the last 2,000 years, they must be good structures,” one of them said.

  • New L.A. fault map threatens Hollywood development projects

    The state of California recently released new geological maps which reveal the presence of an active earthquake fault along the path of major developments in Hollywood. The maps established a zone of 500 feet on both sides of the fault, and state law will require new developments within the zone to conduct underground seismic testing to determine whether the fault runs beneath planned development sites. Building on top of faults is prohibited. Three prominent Hollywood developments — the Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project, the Blvd6200 development, and an apartment project on Yucca Street — are within the 500-foot fault zone.

  • Zapping bridges with electricity to test for corrosion

    One out of nine of the nation’s bridges is structurally deficient and that more than 30 percent of bridges have exceeded their 50-year design life; the average age of the nation’s bridges is currently forty-two years. Motorists in the United States make more than 200 million trips across bridges rated structurally deficient or in need of significant maintenance and yearly inspection. Of the more than 17,000 bridges in New York, 12.5 percent are structurally deficient and 27 percent are considered functionally obsolete. One major culprit for bridges’ deterioration: corrosion of reinforcing steel. New testing method could replace expensive, time-consuming visual inspections.

  • Colorado faces costly, lengthy challenge fixing flood-damaged roads

    The Colorado Department of Transportation(CDOT) has met the 1 December 2013 deadline to reopen twenty-seven flood-battered highways in the state, but the department still faces major challenges in making permanent fixes to damage caused by September’s historic floods. The scope of the task is currently being evaluated as highway managers explore technological and engineering changes needed to keep about 485 miles of damaged roadway more resistant to mass flooding.

  • NIST: Joplin tornado highlights need for building design, construction standards

    Nationally accepted standards for building design and construction, public shelters, and emergency communications can significantly reduce deaths and the steep economic costs of property damage caused by tornadoes. That is the key conclusion of a two-year technical NIST investigation into the impacts of the 22 May 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. Report and recommendations released for public comment.

  • List of most-at-risk L.A. buildings to be released

    Scientists have compiled a list of concrete buildings in Los Angeles which could be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake. The list identifies about 1,500 concrete structures built before 1980 which need further study to determine their risk level. Structural engineers insist that hundreds could die if any of the buildings collapsed.

  • The Philippines is victim of geography, poor infrastructure, poverty

    Owing to its location and geography, the Philippines is one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the world. On average the country experiences nine major typhoons and 900 earthquakes annually, and it has twenty-five active volcanoes. Poor infrastructure and pervasive poverty exacerbate the impact of disasters, making them even more deadly and destructive. “In a cruel cycle, poverty and underdevelopment make disasters worse, and disasters make poverty and underdevelopment worse,” one observer notes.

  • Resources on disaster preparedness, resilience

    One year after Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern United States, local, state, and federal agencies as well as community groups and businesses are working to strengthen the U.S.s resilience to future disasters. A National Research Council (NRC) has issues a series of studies and reports, and has put together workshops and study groups, which should advance the national conversation on preparedness and resilience.

  • Urban underground water can be used for sustainable energy

    Vast energy sources are slumbering below big cities. Sustainable energies for heating in winter and cooling in summer may be extracted from heated groundwater aquifers. Researchers developed an analytical heat flux model and found that increasing heat in the underground is mainly caused by an increase in surface temperatures and heat release from buildings.

  • New method to help coastal communities adapt to sea-level rise

    Future sea-level rise seems inevitable, although the rates and geographical patterns of change remain uncertain. Given the large and growing populations and economic activity in coastal zones, as well as the importance of coastal ecosystems, the potential impacts of sea-level change are far-reaching. Current methods to assess the potential impact of sea-level rise have varied significantly and hindered the development of useful scenarios and, in turn, suitable adaption policies and planning.

  • Guardrails made safer with impact-absorbing Mediterranean tapeweed coating

    Researchers have developed protective guardrails from residue of Posidonia oceanica,commonly known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean tapeweed, in order to minimize the risk of injuries on the roads. The waste material is useful for coating the support posts of guard rails on roads so they can absorb and dissipate much of the kinetic energy if a collision occurs, preventing lacerations and amputations in cases in which a human body hits the support post.

  • Crumbling infrastructure hobbles U.S. competitiveness

    America’s infrastructure has long been denied the investment and attention needed from public and private entities to remain competitive in an ever-growing global economy. U.S. roads, bridges, power plants, airports, utilities, and other critical infrastructure were once the envy of the world. The post-Second World War golden era (that is, golden era as far as investments in infrastructure are concerned) has come to an end, and fewer resources are committed to improving and maintaining the country’s infrastructure.

  • Rural California country faces levee dilemma

    About 400 homes and rich farmland in District-10 of Marysville, California risk being flooded should the levees protecting the area fail. The levees, stretching over twenty-eight miles, were built in the early 1900s. The area’s low population may be one reason why county officials have neglected making improvements to the levees in District-10. Local opponents of investment in shoring up the levees are worried that if the levees are improved and the area made safer, “It would open the door for more agribusiness type things, but it would also open the door for more subdivisions,” in the words of one of them.

  • A state of disrepair: Thousands of U.S. aging bridges risk collapse

    Of the 607,380 bridges listed in the recent U.S. National Bridge Inventory, 65,605 bridges are classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 as “fracture critical,” with 7,795 of those bridges designated as both structurally deficient and fracture critical. Experts say this indicates significant disrepair and a risk of collapse. These 7,795 structurally deficient, fracture critical bridges carry more than twenty-nine million drivers a day.