The country is still reeling from the devastation from strong winds, heavy rains and flooding brought about by Hurricane Sandy, which killed more than a hundred people, caused billions in damages to property and displaced thousands from their homes. To put their lives back in order, those who are affected have started to rebuild their homes and their businesses. When rebuilding, claiming insurance is the first order of the day. However, people are shocked to find out that their standard home insurance policies do not cover unexpected costs related to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
In general, a standard private home insurance policy has six types of coverage – the dwelling, other structures in the property, building contents, loss of use, personal liability protection and medical payments. The first three types offer protection to the main house or building and any detached structure(s) and their contents, against events such as hurricane, hail, lightning or fire.
Unfortunately, damages caused by flooding are rarely covered by private insurance. If you want protection against this event, you need to get it through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by FEMA.
The same is true with earthquakes. For homes and businesses located in high-risk areas such as those along the San Andreas fault, owners need to take out an additional policy to cover earthquakes.
Another unexpected cost stems from the fact that there are a lot more deductibles now than ever before. In fact, the Consumer Federation of America has observed that through the years, the amount of out-of-pocket cash shelled out by homeowners before their insurance coverage starts has been going up by 2 to 5 percent per year.
And then there is another thing called “anti-concurrent causation”, a technical term, which means that if two events happen at the same time, and one of those events is not covered by the insurance policy, then damages might not be covered at all.
Unexpected costs and a lot of headaches could have been avoided had investors opted for prefabricated steel buildings. Steel buildings are strong and can be designed to withstand high load conditions. The components are bolted together with fasteners that do not loosen through time; the whole structure remains secure in its foundation. Unlike wood, steel does not change. It does not warp, shrink or break and is resistant to termites.
Steel buildings are non-flammable nor combustible. This results to lower insurance costs. Steel buildings that are properly designed and constructed based on the prevailing building codes will stay straight and true in spite of extreme weather disturbances such as strong winds, heavy rain and snow, earthquakes and floods.
While metal buildings are already “special” in this aspect because of their fundamental component – that is, steel – there’s still more to earthquake proof design than just material. There are several considerations you must watch out for, being the hands-on owner that you are, once you’re out there talking to your project engineer.
The first and most basic bit of advice would be: look up. A lot of buildings have already failed because of the roof crashing down – primarily because once it does, then you have yourself a domino of floors splitting to pieces. So in designing quake safe metal buildings, you must ensure that your roof is designed to be two things: 1) strong enough to carry your expected loads; and 2) as light as possible. The right combination of slope, decking, insulation, slab, and frame will mean your roof will not slip off (when the building shakes sideways) or collapse (when the ground oscillates vertically).
Generally speaking, one-storey metal buildings are safer than multi-storey ones. But the same principle applies to floors, they have to be durable but still be as light as possible. The science lies in the design of the beams, trusses, or the supports and their connection to the frame. The task of engineers is to ensure that these members, whose primary function is to support the structure, must be properly and securely bolted to the main frame so they won’t slip nor tear off during a quake.
Last but not the least, just as the support members are securely bolted, the frame of metal buildings must be fitted robustly to the ground. You must be particular about having your frame nominally pinned at ground level. Nominally pinned footing under every column means you get a steady base in all directions – that is, you ensure both horizontal and vertical support. This design actually allows metal buildings to make the most of its innate flexibility by letting the frame move with its base, enough to handle the strain when the ground moves, instead of simply resisting the movement, causing premature collapse.
While it may not be possible to create a fully quake-proof metal building, you might as well take chance to get your best defense against this natural threat. After all, if you can’t get a guarantee, you don’t have to settle for less than the protection you know you can have with metal buildings.
Over a year has passed from that fateful day when a massive 9.0 earthquake hit Japan, wiping out entire cities off its coast. A thousand after-shocks came with the disaster, but as it seems, the earth’s movement in the region has yet to stop.
Less than a month ago, another earthquake hit Japan’s north eastern coast. The 6.8-magnitude quake, obviously, wasn’t as damaging as last year’s. But nonetheless, U.S. has been equally vigilant of any Pacific-wide tsunami threats or possible similar quakes taking place within its territory.
For the longest time, engineers have been developing building techniques and designs to create more structurally sound buildings, precisely to stand against such natural hazards. What happened to Japan was possibly the biggest wake-up call for engineers all over the world, considering that this nation is known to be one of the most progressed in terms of technology and innovation.
Metal buildings have long been the subject of, not just discussions, but experiments as well. Over the years, metal buildings and construction techniques have been under constant improvement until the point when engineers were actually able to pronounce metal buildings as “quake-proof” buildings.
But in order to understand how all this was even possible, it is fundamental that you know why structures fail in the first place.
Earthquakes are tricky. They are not only hard to predict, they also behave in different ways. Some quakes cause the land to move up and down, others sideways, still others, alternate between the two.
Now, metal buildings, wooden buildings, and concrete buildings – practically any type of structure – are designed to carry loads, including their own weight. Most buildings are built to withstand vertical loads, and can therefore also handle up and down land movement. However, traditional buildings aren’t usually designed to take on side-to-side loads, especially those built before structural engineering emerged and earthquake proof measures have been highlighted. This is one of the most basic reasons why buildings fail.
Overloading might as well take the next slot in the list. Not all buildings are designed with balanced loading. It takes experts to compute these numbers, of course, but not all experts get the job right all the time, especially if we’re talking about multi-storied buildings. And usually, things like this are only found out right when it’s too late. An earthquake is certainly the worst time to realize that some loads just weren’t accounted for.
Needless to say, other factors like the strength of material also play a crucial part in withstanding earthquakes. One main reason why metal buildings became a popular subject of study is primarily because of all building materials, metal is the sturdiest and the most flexible of all – these are two characteristics you can’t find in any concrete or timber, or any other material for that matter.
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is probably the most popular and unforgettable of all earthquakes that hit the United States. This momentuous quake struck San Francisco in the wee hours of April 18, 1906 and reached a magnitude of between 7.7 to 8.25. The San Francisco earthquake ran through the equally popular San Andreas Fault, shaking the ground from Oregon to Nevada. The only natural disaster that came close to this earthquake’s impact to the United States is Hurricane Katrina of 2005. Since then, the citizens of the United States have been more vigilant of this natural threat.
Now the San Andreas Fault is, of course, recognized as the fault right beneath California’s soil. It runs more or less 810 miles through the Golden State. This is the exact fault that caused and still causes several earthquakes, big and small in different regions of the State and beyond, time and again. The number of casualties in these events range from 2 to 3000.
Indeed, earthquakes may just be the most frightening, if not traumatic, experiences anyone can have. An earthquake is one of the forces of nature that are rather hard to predict, not to mention evade. For many years researchers have been devoted to lessening the disastrous effects of the natural plates’ movements. Metal buildings, as a revolutionary building technology, are only one of their advancements.
A lot of cynics, however, cannot help but question the ability of metal buildings to withstand an earthquake. To be fair, manufacturers of metal buildings as well as engineers agree that, up to date, no building can guarantee that it can endure an earthquake. However, what they can assure you is, metal buildings will definitely do a far better job than a concrete one in the event of a California quake.
Metal buildings will not fail due to crushing in a way that concrete buildings most likely will. The logic here is basic: metal is ductile whereas concrete is brittle.Metal buildings can bend, stretch, contract without failing. This is a natural feature of every member of the metal frame. Today, concrete buildings can only do as much as mimic or approach this characteristic. No wonder, most concrete buildings crumble when the ground starts vibrating and swerving all ways.
When you’re living in a town that’s just about an arm’s reach from the famous fault, you really can’t afford this kind of slip-ups when the technology is ready and available. If you plan to build, you might as well build a structure that will last; not to mention one that might just save your life any given time.