Space Technology for Safer Buildings

NASA scientists aimed to create more stable spaceships, but inadvertently found a way to make buildings safer during earthquakes. In an example of the hummingbird effectinterstellar innovation presents an opportunity to change the way buildings are “earthquake proofed”. While working on stabilizing technology for violently shaking spaceships, the NASA team focused on the heaviest part of the ship: its fuel. With success in this approach, the team realized that if they could stabilize a spaceship with liquid, the same approach could work for buildings. This enables a considerably faster counterbalance measure, compared with the heavy object counter-balance system used in many buildings today. This has particular promise for cities on North America’s west coast as they prepare for the “really big one“. More broadly, the innovation underlines the potential to apply existing technology to new fields and the value of cross-sector cooperation. Urban innovation has many sources, space exploration included.


Mitchell Reardon

Mitchell Reardon is the TH!NK by IBI blog curator, a land use planner and urban experimenter. His interdisciplinary work centres on people and how they live, work and move through the city. Mitchell is enjoying life in Vancouver, after 6 years of living and working in Stockholm, Sweden. Catch up with him on Twitter: @MitchellReardon

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