Low-Cost Reinforcement of Earthen Houses in Seismic Areas

[Most text quoted from the referenced article shown below.]
Vernacular earthen houses located in seismic areas are at risk because of their inherent structural vulnerability. Adobe houses, for instance, are strong in compression but weak in tension. Earthquakes pull adobe houses apart, causing great loss of life and property. However, due to economic reasons, earth is the only available building material for many communities in developing countries.

It is possible to provide reinforcement to earthen buildings in order to improve their structural performance and to prevent their collapse during earthquakes. Several low-cost reinforcement techniques developed at the Catholic University of Peru over more than 35 years of research are presented and compared in this paper.

Plastic Mesh Reinforced Adobe
Plastic Mesh Reinforced Adobe

A recent study has been performed at PUCP to evaluate the possibility of using polymer mesh to reinforce earthen buildings (Blondet et al. 2006). The first models were reinforced with different amounts of geomesh and they showed good dynamic response during the earthquake simulation tests: although the adobe walls suffered some damage, collapse was avoided even during very strong shaking. As expected, however, the amount and spread of damage on the adobe walls increased as the quantity of polymer mesh reinforcement decreased. Moderate amounts of strategically placed polymer mesh reinforcement can therefore be used to prevent the collapse of adobe buildings, even during severe earthquakes.

[Note: I read on another website where Blondet, one of the lead researchers on this project, said this method of using plastic reinforcement mesh was the strongest method they’ve discovered in 35 years of seismic research.]

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