When Buildings Move, People Shouldn't

Derek Skolnik
Senior Project Manager
Kinemetrics Inc., Los Angeles

Natural and induced building movements negatively impact tall buildings and the business districts they anchor. For example, large but distant earthquakes can cause urban environments to sustain significant financial loss from unnecessary evacuations and business interruption. Additionally, uninformed decision-making during an earthquake increases the potential for panic, injuries, and costly downtime. Dubai’s earthquake hazard largely comes from southern Iran; a region capable of M8+ earthquakes. In fact, over the past 5 years, several earthquakes from this region have led to widespread panic and unnecessary evacuations across the Gulf.

Advances in seismic sensing and mobile technology now enable tall building stakeholders to avoid over-reaction and business process interruptions, make better-informed decisions during an earthquake, and minimize expensive downtime and distress. When a tall building moves enough to cause discomfort in occupants, building operators need to have answers to some very tough questions; how much did the building move? How much is too much? Is there a safety concern? Do we need to evacuate?

This presentation describes the evolution of a multi-faceted solution (developed in part for the Dubai Municipality) that provides answers to these questions and the situational awareness to effectively manage emergencies that could lead to evacuations. Case-studies, including the Burj Khalifa of Dubai, are used to illustrate different employments of high-end monitoring, performance-based engineering services, post-event response planning and management, and novel two-way communication channels to achieve rapid well-informed decision making and critical information dissemination.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation