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Retrofitting dampers could save lives claims earthquake expert


LIVES ARE being put at risk by owners refusing to retrofit earthquake protection to old buildings, a specialist in earthquake damping said last week.

Thousands of ageing structures around the world are failing to meet modern earthquake codes, but could be brought up to scratch by fitting visco-elastic dampers.

Keith Fuller, an engineer at research organisation Rubber Consultants, said retrofit work is often neglected. 'Building owners just aren't interested, ' he said.

And even when buildings have been fitted with dampers, improper installation heightens the risk of structural failure, Fuller said.

Misuse of damper units, which are often 'put in by eye, can lead to structural deformation and failure to contribute the damping required', he continued.

Applied correctly, dampers, fitted diagonally in beam and column structures, can carry more than half the total force applied to a structural frame during an earthquake, the Society for Earthquake & Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED) meeting was told.

Each damping unit costs around £100, making retrofitting a far more economic proposition than the commonly used foundation isolation method.

Viscous damping reduces resonance and could also be a useful tool in new build, added Building Research Establishment engineer Brian Ellis.

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