A long time ago I was for a brief period of time an engineering major in college. Actually longer than brief, but the fact remains I didn’t get my degree in engineering, and instead got a degree a few years later in fine art. I still have great admiration for the engineers of the world, and in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake, I am absolutely amazed at the kind of engineering that surrounds the Japanese building codes. Not many structures could withstand a 8.9 to 9.0 earthquake. Yet in Japan buildings stand tall and proud today thanks to the structural and mechanical engineers that have helped to develop, and perfect some of the world’s toughest building codes.
Hidden inside the steel frame work of Japan’s high-rise towers, there is extra steel bracing, giant rubber pads and embedded hydraulic shock absorber systems that make modern Japanese buildings among the sturdiest and earthquake resistant in the world.The building codes and engineering standards exist today in part as a result of the devastating earthquake that shook Japan in 1923. Not one building in Tokyo fell despite the record-breaking magnitude, a true testament to the level of engineering involved in the construction of their structures.
While the tsunami that followed the quake was even more devastating than the earthquake itself for many communities in Northern Japan, tsunami warning signs, towering sea walls and well-marked escape routes offered some protection from incoming walls of water. This is in thanks to the concrete sea walls, and early warning systems that were engineered and built out in the 1980s and 1990s. These sea walls, some as high as 40 feet are Japan’s first line of defense against the incoming water.
My hat goes off to all the engineers and builders that helped reduce the effects of the earthquake and tsunami yesterday.