Find Out How Skyscrapers Can Survive an Earthquake

Living in skyscrapers can give residents literally a life in the sky: unparalleled skyline views, a sense of privacy, and an almost soothing lifestyle. 

In Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines, skyscrapers dominate the skyline of central business districts. The region is even home to the majority of the top 10 tallest buildings in the world. 

The 100-storey St Regis Chicago soars above downtown Chicago offering a 360-degree view of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
The 100-storey St Regis Chicago soars above downtown Chicago offering a 360-degree view of Chicago and Lake Michigan.

However, several Asian countries are also too familiar with earthquakes due to their location on the Pacific Ring of Fire–home to 75% of the world’s volcanoes. “Duck, cover, and hold” has been the region’s mantra during quakes. To be better prepared, earthquake-resilient buildings are a must.

When a large earthquake strikes, it feels (and is actually) safe to be in a structurally sound home together with loved ones. And with the continuing race to the top by luxury developers across the globe, this raises serious questions: Is it really safe to live in skyscrapers? Can these high-rise buildings survive nature’s ground movement?

The answer is yes. Skyscrapers can be designed to withstand earthquakes by using state-of-the-art structural design methodologies. One of them is performance-based structural design (PBSD), a globally recognized and innovative design system for building earthquake-resilient structures.

The 65-storey The Summit (Hang Lung) in Hong Kong commands a sweeping view of the Victoria Harbour and the Kowloon Peninsula.

Guaranteeing Resiliency against Quakes

Focusing on quake resilience, engineering firms and consultants use the state-of-the-art PBSD for skyscrapers and other challenging structures to come up with world-class designs that are quake-proof. 

PBSD is a methodology that was pioneered by Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA), a world-renowned and award-winning structural and civil engineering firm.  

MKA has a notable expertise in designing tall structures with increased safety and reliability, including skyscrapers of St Regis, Aqua, and Lumina in the United States, the Mumbai Four Seasons Residential Towers in India, World Finance Tower and Hunan Road Suning Plaza in China, The Summit (Hang Lung) in Hong Kong, and many more.

The Mumbai Four Seasons Residential Towers offer unparalleled views of the Arabian Sea.

MKA’s PBSD is chiefly beneficial in eliminating unnecessary structural elements that would otherwise affect a building’s integrity and efficient space planning. As a trailblazer in this field, the engineering firm has the knowledge and tools to apply the method even to buildings over 240 ft. 

The 87-storey residential beauty Aqua towers over Lakeshore East in downtown Chicago.

MKA is likewise known for creating enduring building designs, several of which are located in areas with high earthquake activities. To date, the firm has around 70 PBSD structures across the globe, including One Rincon Hill, Transbay Tower, and Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. 

In the Philippines, MKA’s PBSD methodology was applied to One Legacy Grandsuites, resulting in the following benefits: 

  • Robust structural elements: The condo has been “fine-tuned” after MKA engineers identified its points of strength and suggested improvements on the layout.
  • Optimized for ground-shaking events: MKA anticipated the condo’s response during a maximum ground-shaking event, further enhancing its resilience. 
  • Improved construction details: PBSD, along with advanced analytics, informed the condo building design, so it uses materials or subassemblies that work under different earthquake levels. It helped greatly improve the building design by introducing the materials and details that help increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the building’s performance against natural disasters. 

The 69-storey One Legacy Grandsuites will rise as an iconic masterpiece and the tallest building in all Chinatowns in the world.

One Legacy Grandsuites, the tallest building in all Chinatowns, will rise as an iconic landmark at the heart of Manila Chinatown. The 69-storey skyscraper will set the bar higher for luxury living with its world-class structural design and elaborately designed state-of-the-art amenities.

Preparing for the Future

PBSD is considered the structural design methodology of the future. In essence, it helps create a disaster-proof structural design that can withstand some of the most unpredictable events. 

PBSD is also recognized by global professional associations, such as the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), as a structural design methodology that has become common in urban centers. The expert use of this methodology helps build resilient communities that have: 

  • A high level of resistance against strong ground shaking
  • Lower risk of being exposed to earthquakes’ damaging effects
  • Minimal occupancy interruption
  • Hazard mitigation strategies at hand

Families dreaming of living in the sky should no longer worry. Besides providing strong building performance, PBSD can guarantee the comfort, safety, and flexibility of spaces that adapt to their evolving needs. To boot, all facilities and amenities needed for secure and convenient urban living will be at arm’s reach.

Natural disasters like earthquakes remain challenging to predict as they can happen anywhere, anytime. But with the emergence of PBSD structures, Asia, including the Philippines, is now headed towards enhanced resilience and building safer communities.


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