In the 1990s Parliament Buildings in Wellington were refurbished and strengthened. Specially designed blocks of rubber and lead were placed between the new foundations and the concrete beams. The blocks act like shock absorbers, preventing much of the movement of an earthquake being transferred from the foundation to the buildings. This method of earthquake-resistant design, developed in New Zealand, is called ‘base isolation’ because it helps isolate the building from its foundations.
Once separated from their foundations, the buildings were supported by special jacks and then lowered onto the rubber blocks. A ‘moat’ was placed around the building to allow it to move up to 300 millimetres in an earthquake. Reinforced concrete was also applied to the walls, which were joined to the floors with concrete and steel. Each building is therefore like a stiff box standing on top of flexible supports.
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