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Could Carbon Fiber Have Prevented Losses From Turkey’s Earthquake?

Over 2,200 buildings were shattered after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey on October 23rd, killing at least 534 people and injuring 2,300 more. Although some 185 individuals have been rescued from the rubble, the death toll is also still rising days after the tremor hit. The culprit? According to Turkey’s prime minister, the builders are responsible for the collapse of the structures due to unsafe building practices. UKPA quotes Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who says, “Municipalities, constructors and supervisors should now see that their negligence amounts to murder.”

October 23, 2011 Turkey Earthquake – Image Courtesy of Baz Ratner/Reuters
Turkey lies at the intersection of the Anatolian, African, Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates. Unfortunately, this means the country will continue to experience earthquakes. But it doesn’t mean Turkey’s people should have to suffer. When the last major quake struck around a decade ago killing over 18,000 people, strict building codes were put in place in order to prevent future loss of life. However, these safety codes have not been strictly enforced.
Many inspections that should have reviewed building plans and actual construction never happened. It is evident now that the fallen buildings lacked steel support rods and sufficient concrete needed to withstand the quake. Further investigation this week has shown that much of the cement lacked steel reinforcing bars, or was mixed with large amounts of sand, which made it unstable. A parliamentary report said Turkey has also failed to improve city planning, reinforce substandard buildings, control urban development and punish people who violate building codes. It warned that several Turkish cities are at risk, such as Istanbul, with a population of 15 Million. Many geologists have urged the government to tear down around 40,000 buildings there that they believe to be unstable, and have warned that hundreds of thousands more need to be reinforced.
Seismic retrofitting of structures is not only a viable initiative, but can also save on resources such as labor, materials, time, and money. Carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP’s) for seismic retrofitting for example, are significantly less costly and intrusive than conventional upgrading techniques that can include heavy demolition and reconstruction. Often it is these inconveniences that deter building owners from performing seismic retrofits.
HJ3’s Carbon fiber for instance, is up to 10 times stronger than steel, is extremely lightweight, and is non-corrosive. These attributes make it an attractive alternative to steel reinforcement for reinforced concrete structures – especially when corrosion is a main concern for the stability of a structure. HJ3’s carbon fiber fabric can be laid up like wallpaper, and wrapped around beams and columns with ease, all while increasing the structures’ strength and displacement ductility, but not adding stiffness to the substrate. Could carbon fiber seismic retrofitting have prevented any of the losses from this recent earthquake? Most likely, yes. Hindsight is always 20/20, but Turkey has now suffered two major quakes in the last dozen years and we know these aren’t the last. However, with careful planning and structural precautions, hopefully the next will occur without human or structural casualties.
HJ3’s Carbon Fiber and Glass System Used for Seismic Retrofit and Building Upgrade
 Final Seismic Upgrade and Historic Restoration Using HJ3’s Carbon Fiber
HJ3 is proud to be involved in the restoration and retrofit efforts occurring in other earthquake-stricken countries such as Haiti, and hope to change the outcomes of any future potential disasters through structural reinforcement. To learn more about HJ3’s carbon fiber applications, including seismic retrofitting systems, please contact us at info@hj3.com or toll-free at 1-877-303-0453.
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