Animation shows how cities will cope with devastating earthquakes

Published 22 January 2008

How do we know what damage will be sustained by a city located in an earthquake-prone region? Purdue University researchers have an ambitious idea: Create a mini satellite city to cope with the aftermath of such a catastrophe; Boilermakers have created a 3D fly-through animation showing what the city would look like

Yogi Berra said that “Predictions are very difficult, especially about the future.” Still, emergency planning is easier when the authorities know what the emergency will be and when it will occur. Take Istanbul, which lies just north of the North Anatolian fault and is said to be at high risk of a major earthquake within the next thirty years. Engineers in Turkey and Indiana’s Purdue University have come up with ambitious plans to create a mini satellite city to cope with the aftermath of such a catastrophe. University researchers have created a 3D fly-through animation showing what the city would look like using new technology developed by the Office of Information Technology at Purdue.

The animation was created in two months using the TeraGrid, a computing grid that was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. It was rendered using the TeraGrid Distributed Rendering Environment, developed by IT research scientists at Purdue. Mete Sozen, Kettelhut distinguished professor of civil engineering at Purdue, said building a satellite city has several advantages. “It is exciting to think about building a new city using completely new technologies,” he said. “It would use modern information techniques and be environmentally friendly. It would be safe, secure and modern. But more important is that it would provide a refuge and emergency services in the event of an earthquake.”

With some cities around the world at risk from rising ocean waters or from natural disasters, Sozen said building cities in new locations may become common in coming decades. If built, the satellite of Istanbul would be the first major city to be constructed since Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, was built during 1956 and 1960. No site for the proposed satellite city has been chosen. The new city would be earthquake resistant, with strong buildings and wide streets. It would be designed to take advantage of building techniques used to minimize earthquake damage and incorporate modern technologies such as electronic locks and security, video communication, and environ-mentally friendly technologies. “We were able to look at the best ideas in the world and incorporate these in our proposal,” said Sozen. “For example, the storm sewers will recycle rainwater like the ones in Sweden.”

A video featuring the animation may be viewed at Purdue’s Web site.

For those interested: Purdue’s Global Engineering Program is taking applications for its “2008 Spring Break Earthquake Engineering in Turkey.” The program’s write-up reads: “Learn about designing and building inside an earthquake zone through site visits and lectures.”