By Nick Gilbert
A research team at the E.T.S. of Architecture of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid has developed and demonstrated a new construction system called Integral Masonry System (IMS) to design earthquake resistant houses.
Construction of an IMS prototype filled with adobe (source: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid)
The test results have confirmed that a house constructed using this stable permanent system with no major cracks and once all those cracks are repaired, it is able to survive severe earthquakes. Majority of the existing buildings in seismic regions of third world countries are constructed with adobe, concrete block or hollow brick. All these materials are not suitable for constructing earthquake resistant houses.
To address this issue, the research team has developed IMS, a low-cost solution that can provide protection against natural disasters such as earthquakes. IMS utilizes prefabricated trusses made of steel rods that are light in weight and can be installed easily by hand by interconnecting them in three directions of space to construct floors and walls, which are then packed with block, brick, mud or debris for walls. Only one plank can be integrated on the slab by the system to provide rigidity.
To study the safety of this new construction system in seismic regions of third world countries, the research team conducted tests using prototypes at the Antiseismic Structures Laboratory and at the Pontificia Católica Universidad del Perú. Two of the prototypes at half scale, one filled with hollow brick, and the other filled with adobe. The third prototype was made at full scale. The results corroborated the high capability of IMS.
IMS is an easier construction option as it does not need concrete and uses local materials, making it an ideal low-cost building solution for third world countries with earthquakes. Moreover, this system enables rebuilding of houses destroyed by an earthquake with the required protection.