Precast concrete panelized systems can meet any seismic zone’s requirements. And new connection techniques that help re-right buildings after a seismic event can ensure that buildings aren’t structurally damaged by an earthquake, allowing them to reopen quickly afterward to serve students and the community.
Recent tests have proven the validity of these approaches, and field work has supported those findings. Design guidelines have been developed from an 11-year, on-going study conducted by the Precast Seismic Structural Systems (PRESSS) research program under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Manufacturers Association of California.
The study tested four frame systems and one shear wall system to determine their capability for withstanding seismic forces. All five systems were found to offer strong seismic performance that was as good as or better than that of cast-in-place systems.
Overall, studies have found, buildings constructed with precast concrete typically will sustain less seismic damage than conventional cast-in-place systems. They are suitable for low-, moderate- and high-seismic zones and use conventional hardware that is widely available. Because they are based on existing, known technologies, the systems offer simple designs that are easy to understand and implement.
Of most significance, three of the designs—the hybrid frame, pretensioned frame and shear wall—offer characteristics not available with any other type of seismic system currently on the market, regardless of material. These systems allow the building to flex with the earthquake force and then pull it back to its original position.
This self-righting characteristic, combined with the minimal damage these systems experience in general, allows immediate reoccupancy of the building after a major seismic event. That can create a compelling marketing advantage in high-seismic areas as well as major revenue generator for owners, who can be assured of few interruptions to the building’s occupancy.
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