The strong earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last March 11 is definitely a great tragedy. Watching the video of the raging water pounding the sea side structures, and creating havoc further inland made me weak in the knees.
This event got me thinking of a system that would prevent such widespread destruction, if not, lessen such occurances. If the years I spent developing and detailing structural retrofits for seismic events has taught me one thing, it is that a full-on resistance to the forces of nature can create adverse effects on the structure, and in a worse case scenario, contribute to the self-destruction of the structure. Recent trends in seismic design is to allow the building to sway with the motion of the earthquake instead of resisting it. The same is also applied to bridge design w
herein the more the structure moves along the direction of the forces acting upon it.
Therefore, I thought up of a system that would allow the structure to ride above the tsunami and sway along with its awesome power.
What I came up with is a network of steel frames with air tight steel drums or tanks to provide bouyancy. The floating steel base is then anchored like a boat to its concrete base or tiers.
But this alone cannot cope with the total forces that the tsunami can bring about. On the area in front of the structure, standing between it and the seafront, is a pair of pneumatic water barrier. Water barriers are already used in buildings around Tokyo to prevent flood waters from entering the structure. In this case, the barrier doesn't aim to stop the water but to redirect some of the forces so that the structure and the floatation frame will not face the brunt of the tsunami.
This system is not only applicable against tsunamis but also help seaside structures from seaborne forces like hurricanes or tropical storms.