Building Protection Through Damping Solutions

As a building owner or real estate developer, you know just how big of an investment owning a building can be. While disasters can strike just about anywhere, Taylor Devices provides a unique solution to protect your building through the use of viscous damping devices. 

Originally developed for NASA in the 1960s, fluid viscous dampers have successfully transitioned to the civil engineering community for use in protecting buildings, bridges and other structures worldwide. Fluid viscous dampers, or seismic dampers as they are sometimes referred to, are hydraulic devices that, when stroked, dissipate the energy placed on a structure. This includes everything from earthquakes if you live on the West Coast, to wind buffering for high-rise buildings in major cities along the East Coast and Midwest.

What Do You Need to Protect Your Buildings From?

Earthquakes

Primarily used for buildings on the West Coast and along major fault lines. 

Wind

Primarily used for high rise buildings on the East Coast and in the Midwest. 

Learn more about fluid viscous dampers below and how they can help protect your building based on your needs.

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Dampers for Seismic Protection

While living in an area without any threat of natural disasters is nearly impossible, living somewhere that is prone to seismic activity creates a unique situation. Most natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, or floods, are typically associated with a certain season or can be somewhat forecasted. Earthquakes, on the other hand, are not. These natural disasters can happen suddenly and without warning. While earthquakes may occur less frequently than other natural disasters, they can be the most destructive and costly when they do.  

Structural damage from the Loma Prieta Earthquake
Structural Damage from the Loma Prieta Earthquake. (Credit: J.K. Nakata, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)

Fortunately, building codes continue to be improved so we can be better prepared against the massive destruction these events create. In California for example, building codes have been modified after nearly every major earthquake.

Earthquakes & Code Improvements

1971

San Fernando
Code improvement: concrete detailing

1989

Loma Prieta
Code improvement: wood frame and soft story issues

1994

Northridge
Code improvement: welded steel frame detailing

While it is important to continuously update codes and make our buildings safer, this can take time. Several cities have begun implementing seismic ordinances requiring the upgrade of certain structures, but improvements can still be made.  Did you know that current California Building Codes only require that buildings avoid collapse for people to evacuate safely? Current codes allow for your building to be designed for damages to occur, meaning it may not be functional or habitable after a moderate or large earthquake. And it’s not just California. Be sure to check your own state’s building codes to find out just how much damage can occur to your building. More importantly, as the building owner, you are responsible for life safety during and after construction is completed.

California Civil Code Section 1942 allows a tenant to break their lease without prior notice when the property is uninhabitable, such as if it has become damaged after an earthquake.

Making Buildings Safer with Seismic Dampers

One method building engineers use to meet the required codes is to stiffen the building, which will make the structure stronger than the earthquake. While this will keep the building from collapsing, extreme shaking can still occur, leading to additional problems such as broken pipes and vents, toppling shelves and light fixtures, water damage, and more. These damages can lead to unsafe living conditions for tenants and you with expensive repairs.

An alternative and more efficient solution is to add seismic dampers to the building to absorb the energy of the earthquake. Similar to how shock absorbers work on your car when driving on a bumpy road, dampers can be added to a structure to limit the shock and vibration during an earthquake.

Taylor Devices makes it easy to retrofit existing buildings as well as protect new buildings from the harmful effects of earthquakes. Our devices allow for immediate occupancy after even the worst predictable design level earthquakes allowing your tenants to reenter their home or workplace after an event. Our seismic dampers will be immediately ready for the aftershock or next seismic event and will last the lifetime of the building.

These seismic dampers are a fraction of the cost it would take for major repairs, or even worse, the need for your building to be demolished because it is structurally unsound.

To learn more about seismic dampers from Taylor Devices please download our Building Owner’s brochure or contact one of our sales representatives today to answer any questions. 

Reducing Motion from Wind with Dampers

While fluid viscous dampers are great for protecting buildings from seismic activity, they can also be used for many other applications including reducing wind motion. Tall buildings will often experience unwanted swaying during high winds which can add stress to a structure and even cause motion sickness for tenants. Traditional methods are to stiffen the building, but this can come with added costs and weight. An alternative is a damped outrigger system that uses fluid viscous dampers. This solution is also superior to a tuned mass damper, which can be extremely expensive, very heavy, and takes away valuable floors at the top of a building. 

You can read more about the benefits of a damped outrigger system by clicking here, or read how these dampers were used in the 250 West 55th Street building in Manhattan and the 181 Freemont building in San Francisco, CA in the following case studies.

Damped Outrigger System in 250 West 55th

Benefits of Adding Dampers to Your Building

Benefits of adding dampers to a building:

  • Prevents shaking of the building so there will be less minor damage such as falling items, broken pipes, etc.
  • Dampers make a building safe for every single earthquake, not just “the next one”
  • Makes the building allow for immediate occupancy following an earthquake
  • Much cheaper than repairs or demolition after an earthquake
  • Only increases the cost of a new building by 1-2%
  • Reduce unwanted swaying due to high winds

To learn even more about how these devices can protect your building, please download our building owner’s brochure below. For any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact us to speak with someone from our skilled technical staff.

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