A team of California-based designers have invented an earthquake-proof column built of 3D printed sand, assembled without bricks and mortar to withstand the harshest seismic activity. The 'Quake Column' is comprised of a pre-determined formation of stackable hollow bricks which combine to create a twisting structure, optimized for intense vibrations in zones of earthquake activity. Created by design firm Emerging Objects, the column's sand-based composition is one of many in a series of experimental structures devised by the team using new materials for 3D Printing, including salt, nylon, and chocolate. The column can be easily assembled and disassembled for use in temporary and permanent structures, and was designed purposefully with a simple assembly procedure for novice builders.
Find out how the Quake Column works after the break
Inspired by Peruvian earthquake architecture from the Incan Empire, the San Francisco-based team at Emerging Objects developed the column without the use of mortar to enhance its structural strength. The secret to the column's success is in its absorption of vibrations: traditionally mortared joints suffer from deterioration at stress concentration points. Without mortar, the modules of the Quake Column can adapt to vibration and quickly resettle without risk of collapse. Additionally, each module features rounded corners and an undulating surface designed to increase resiliency to seismic activity. The column itself leans on a slight inward incline of 3 to 5 degrees based on Incan designs that applied interlocking ashlar bricks for protection in Peru.
Ronald Rael is an Associate Professor of Architecture at University of California Berkeley, and one half of the design team: "We studied Incan masonry techniques, which also exhibit a resistance to seismic forces. We then simplified some rules and added handles to each block, for easy carrying, and a numbering system, for locating the block in the structure." Emerging Objects is led by Rael along with Virginia San Fratello, an Assistant Professor of Design at San Jose State University. Together with their ten person team, the firm specializes in innovations in 3D printing technology for architectural design.
According to Rael, the column has potential to be used in "Houses, interiors, commercial, civic, emergency. The possibilities are wide-ranging, but this is just the beginning of the research." Currently, Emerging Objects is seeking further funding to begin studies on adapting the Quake Column into other building elements, including structural walls for commercial and residential use. Find out more about the Quake Column and Emerging Objects here.