US Engineers Test Building’s Strength Against Earthquakes

May 28, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. story (n.) 
[stawr-ee, stohr-ee]  – a floor or level of a building
Example: Mori Tower is a 54-story building in Roppongi Hills.

2. base (n.) [beys] – the bottom or lowest part of an object
Example: The base of a pyramid is larger than its tip.

3. full-scale (adj.) [fool-skeyl] – having the same size as the original or real thing
Example: A full-scale model of the Eiffel Tower can be seen in Las Vegas.

4. mock (adj.) [mok] – something that looks like or works like the real thing
Example:   Engineers performed mock crash tests on new cars to find out the cars’ strength.

5. superficial (adj.) [soo-per-fish-uhl] – very minor, affecting only the surface
Example: The bike that scratched the car caused only superficial damage to the car’s paint.

Read the text below.
In California, engineers have tested a 5-story hospital on top of a giant “shake table” in order to see how well buildings with rubber bearings can survive against earthquakes.

Rubber bearings are placed in the base of a building and act like roller skates, separating the building from the shaking ground during an earthquake.  Because of this action, rubber bearings are also called “base isolators”. In Japan, where earthquakes happen frequently, buildings are commonly fitted with these rubber bearings.

The test is the first in the US to place a full-scale building on a shake table, which is a large structure that can imitate the movements of earthquakes. The inside of the building is also just like a real hospital, with medical machinery, an elevator, stairs, computers, and other electrical devices.  

During the test, the mock hospital was subject to motions similar to Los Angeles’ 6.7-magnitude earthquake in 1994 and Chile’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010.

Results of the first test showed that the contents of the building remained complete and functional. Damages were also mostly superficial.

Engineering professor Tara Hutchinson said the machines inside the building kept working even after the test. According to her, if the machines were actual life-support systems connected to patients, many lives would have been saved thanks to the bearings.

The test will be repeated over the next weeks, but without base isolators. The results will then be directly compared to determine if there is a difference in the amount and kind of damage between buildings with and without rubber bearings.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Would you say that your country is well-prepared for earthquakes? Why or why not?
·         How can the government and the people improve on their ability to deal with disasters?

Discussion B

·         What are the benefits of conducting mock tests like one mentioned in the article?
·         Can you think of other mock tests that would personally benefit you or other people?


May 28, 2012