Rising above it

Tuesday 20 Mar 2012

Airlift device from Air Danshin Systems allows houses to 'float' during natural disasters

A new invention from Japanese company Air Danshin Systems Inc could revolutionise the way buildings respond to earthquakes and flooding.

The system hopes to fit homes with airbags which can be pumped with air, allowing the structure to 'float' during any tremors. A year has passed since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the country, and interest in the company has since risen. The powerful mechanism can simply be installed around a home, and it has already been fitted to nearly 90 sites around Japan.

The occurrence of an earthquake and the subsequent movement triggers a sensor which activates a compressor and pumps air into an expandable sliding air chamber beneath the building. This happens within one second. The structure is then lifted and isolated about 3cm from its foundations. An indoor valve controls the airflow beneath the house, keeping the structure steady.

Once the shaking passes, the air is gently let out of the bags allowing the house to descend back onto an earthquake-resistant reinforced concrete foundation. Emergency batteries are provided in the event of a power-loss. Test footage shows a model home remaining perfectly still above the ground.

Whilst this is not the first seismic isolation system to be created, Air Danshin claims theirs is a third of the cost of others, at roughly ¥3 million (£23,375) depending on the size of the building. Whether or not the system will be a success remains to be seen.

Air Danshin Systems Inc was established in 2005 by inventor Youichi Sakamoto, to market and sell the new technology.

Finding a solution to secure buildings from natural disasters has been a priority in Japan for some time. In 2010 a super elastic iron alloy was developed, with hopes to use it in the bracing of buildings. A number of floating homes have also been developed around the world. However, Sakamoto's invention seems to be the most promising so far.

The company hope to expand the product by installing adapted systems in larger buildings which face more of a risk. These would include schools and hospitals, as well as factories and laboratories.

Dami Babalola

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