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Tsunami-Proof Building

Can any building survive the force of Tsunami waves?

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A house on Japan's northern shore washes away after the tsunami of March 2011.

A house on Japan's northern shore washes away after the tsunami of March 2011.

Photo by U.S. Air Force via Getty Images
Architects and engineers can design buildings that will stand tall during even the most violent earthquakes. A tsunami, however, has the power to wash away entire villages. Tragically, no building is tsunami-proof, but some buildings will resist forceful waves, giving residents time to flee.

Shrewd engineering combined with a swift, efficient warning system can save thousands of lives. Engineers and other experts suggest these strategies for tsunami-resistant construction:

  1. As much as possible, leave vegetation and reefs intact. They won't stop tsunami waves, but they can slow them down.
  2. Orient the building at an angle to the shoreline. Walls that directly face the ocean will suffer more damage.
  3. Construct deep foundations, braced at the footings.
  4. Use heavy concrete construction for the lower floors.
  5. Elevate the lower floors on legs. Rising water will do less damage if it can flow underneath the structure.
  6. Use continuous steel framing strong enough to resist hurricane-force winds.
  7. Design structural connectors that can absorb stress.
For details about these and other construction techniques, explore the Tsunami-Proof Building resources listed below.
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