Using BIM for Building Structural Design That Endures Earthquakes


June 03, 2015 │ Bhushan Avsatthi 

The development of a city is defined by the kind of buildings and infrastructure it has. Now these buildings and infrastructural facilities have to be designed based on the geographical, social and climatic conditions of the place they are built in. One of the most important aspects of building design includes development of structures that are safe, functional and restorable. This can be done by utilizing the capabilities of BIM – building information modeling for building structural design that endures adverse situations such as earthquakes.

If experts are to be believed; people residing in Indian subcontinent, Western and Central America (the Famous San Andreas Fault Line), Japan, New Zealand, other countries falling in the famous ring of fire, are sitting on a ticking time-bomb!

Aseismically active zone; these areas fall under High risk zones; where an earthquake as high as 9 on Richter scale can hit any time – 1905 San Francisco earthquake, 2001 Gujarat (India) earthquake, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake (that caused massive tsunami) and the recent one in the Nepal testifies the fear expressed by seismologists! The scale of devastation caused by these disasters has been mammoth; human and property casualties were sky-high!

In such a scenario, it becomes imperative to adopt virtual design and construction technology, which can help us design structures with a strong physical environment (Earthquake resistant structures) that cushion us from the devastating effects on life and property.

You may say that before the advent of BIM, there were structures built and they were earthquake resistant. So why do we need Building information modeling? The point to be noted here is that while earlier cities were growing horizontally, today we see them developing vertically. With high-rises, skyscrapers and highly complex structures it is very important to adopt technology such as BIM.

Thanks to advanced technology support like BIM, and seismic BIM in particular, it is possible to erect towering structures and skyscrapers that can stand tall and steady when disaster such as storm, earthquake, hurricane, flood etc strikes. The increased interest in seismic BIM, in fact is paving ways and means to not just build new robust structures but also to but also to restore and brace up crumbling structures to endure natural disasters.

BIM being a very powerful tool for analytics; plays a pivotal role in disaster preparedness when it is carefully used during the very early schematic design phase of a project. In fact, in this context, BIM can be leveraged to conduct a comprehensive series of tests to gauge the possible impacts of everything -be it strong winds and heavy rains to solar energy and even earthquakes, on designs.

BIM enables architects and engineers of the AEC community, to create highly detailed 3D structural models of roads, bridges, tunnels, and other urban infrastructure elements. These detailed models help in analyzing the seismic events and their intended impacts through simulation. It also makes it possible to implement modifications in the design, so as to ensure least damage. Other than this, detailed BIM modeling for earthquake resistant structures help in locating hangers, seismic bracing, sleeves, inserts and penetrations inside model.

Not just does it provide a simulation of earthquake impact, BIM also helps with seismic specifications, like placing BIM objects in models further away than normal so that in case of any event like earthquake, the components won’t clash with each other; resulting into lower human casualties and rebuilding/repairing costs for correcting or rectifying the damages.

With BIM; the engineers can ensure that all seismic requirements are integrated accordingly, eradicating the need to make any design modifications as the work starts evolving. In fact, 3D views become a very critical part when it comes to submission of seismic specifications, like a regulation calling for a 2-inch space between pipes or ducts to avoid damage in the event like earthquake.

In the end, natural forces are beyond human control; however, there is always a way, to shield ourselves from its devastating effects – BIM has for sure, a great role to play; especially in construction of disaster proof (more specifically earthquake proof) structures!

About Author:

Bhushan Avsatthi is an Associate Director at Hi-Tech Outsourcing Services. Bhushan imbibes the prophecy of efficient and prudent use of energy in his day to day life and advices his team to do so as well. He is also involved in green initiatives like nonprofit tree plantation project and promotes using cycles for commuting small distances. Bhushan, handles a team of architects, Structural and MEP engineers, LEED consultants and Energy modeling experts.

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