In certain areas of the world, it is crucial to build structures to withstand the massive shock and damage associated with earthquakes. Unfortunately, science has not yet developed an early warning system that can give immediate notice when an earthquake is imminent. Thus, we are completely at nature's mercy to survive an earthquake, and buildings must be built to withstand an earthquake at any time.
Much research and study has been devoted to learning which types of structures fare best in an earthquake. Generally speaking the consensus is that metal buildings fare better than concrete.
However, one might ask: does this mean that all metal buildings can withstand an earthquake?
The answer is no. Just because a building is metal does not mean it will automatically do well in an earthquake.
Metal structures are more likely to survive earthquakes because they are more ductile -they can bend and flex without breaking. This characteristic is crucial in a serious earthquake.
The most common type of metal used to build earthquake-safe buildings is steel rebar. Steel rebar has the ductility that is critical to absorbing earthquake and is very strong, making it the best and most effective option for building in an earthquake zone.
Steel rebar has proven to be an excellent building material that can withstand earthquakes, but it is not fool-proof in and of itself. It must be applied with the correct engineering and architectural principles to maximize its effectiveness. If you are considering using steel rebar to build an earthquake-resistant structure, be absolutely sure your plans and methods are correct, or hire a builder who is familiar with such structures.
Other types of metal buildings are far less resistant to earthquakes, and can be quite unsafe in earthquake-prone areas. Many metal modular homes are not constructed to withstand the tremendous shock of an earthquake. These types of buildings would be very unsafe in an earthquake zone. Also, sheet metal buildings are very fragile and highly likely to collapse during an earthquake. Experts do not recommend either of these types of structures to be placed in an earthquake zone. Some zoning laws forbid them altogether.
Another very important factor that influences whether a building will survive an earthquake is the distribution of weight. A building that is top-heavy is more likely to fall than a building that is lightweight at the top. An earthquake-safe building not only should be constructed with steel rebar. It should be framed with lighter materials in the upper floors and have a heavily reinforced lower section.
The most important lesson to learn from this discussion is that just because a building is made of metal doesn't necessarily mean it is earthquake proof. To be fully earthquake proof, a building needs to be built with the correct materials (like steel rebar) and be built according to the correct standards.
If you are building a commercial facility, you owe it to yourself, your customers, and anyone who uses the building to use the best materials and techniques available to you. You want to get the most out of your investment, so give it the attention it merits.