Are Buildings in SF on Rollers? Base Isolation in San Francisco

For California, another large earthquake is inevitable. In 1906, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck San Francisco and destroyed 28,000 structures, over 80% of the city’s buildings at the time. The magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 is estimated to have caused anywhere from $6-10 billion in property damages around the Bay Area. But these days there’s technology to help buildings resist earthquakes. One the most robust ways for a building to resist earthquake damage is base isolation. As a follow-up to the detailed New York Times article about base isolation, we take a deep dive into base isolation in San Francisco.

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Dams, Potential Flooding & Buying a House in Earthquake Country

So far in this series, we’ve covered proximity to fault lines in part one and soil liquefaction and landslides in part two. Another area to look into before buying a house in earthquake country is proximity to dams. Their watersheds cover vast areas, causing massive flooding downstream if the dam fails during an earthquake.

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What Affects Earthquake Shaking?

When an earthquake strikes, the intensity of earthquake shaking determines the severity of damage. In turn, the main factors affecting earthquake shaking intensity are earthquake depth, proximity to the fault, the underlying soil, and building characteristics—particularly height. Let’s take a look at the latter two (soil and buildings) and how they interact.

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