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Understanding Seismic Design through a Musical Analogy

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Seismologists, earthquake engineers and seismic code experts understand the science of earth that moves and the structures built on it, but many of the concepts involved may be too abstract for architects, builders and the public. This article offers an analogy to help explain seismic design and presents three different construction techniques used in Chile, Japan and the United States that counter an earthquake’s effects.

The ground exerts seismic forces upon a building following a particular spectral acceleration, like a musician playing an instrument according to a given score. In both cases, there are several elements that determine how energy is transferred, and describe how it is felt.

Earthquake ↔ Music
Soil ↔ Musician
Seismic Spectrum ↔ Score
Building ↔ Instrument
Building’s Response ↔ Sound
Building’s Occupants ↔ Audience
Event’s Social Context ↔ Concert Hall

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