Another building question--strongest?

I’m on a building kick, as you can probably tell.

Anyway, today it’s the building that’s most able to resist natural disasters (probably earthquakes, but anything will do) in the world. My brother and I were discussing the Japanese earthquake-proof ones when this came up.

Any ideas?

Surely among the sturdiest structures ever built by man are the command and control bunkers for ICBM silos and the deep shelters that house NORAD. In the case of the ICBM silos, they were expected to survive any ground-level nuclear explosion that didn’t actually put the bunker within the radius of the blast crater. NORAD, buried under a mile of solid rock, was expected to require a direct hit by a megaton-range nuclear weapon to destroy.

The Great Pyramids are holding up pretty well. The ancient pyramids in the Americas aren’t doing too bad, either.

My guess would be geodesic domes.
I will live in one someday, dammit.


Some of the most earthquake-proof tall buildings aren’t so much strong as smart - they are made from materials that are able to flex a little without catastrophic failure, but they also often have active systems to prevent damage; an earthquake damages buildings chiefly by exerting a shear force upon the base of the building - the top of the building doesn’t move until a bit later and this puts the materials under directional loads they may not be able to cope with; active sytems do things like applying a temporary matching force at the top of the building (by the reaction of sliding a large mass around).

Seems like there’s two different schools of thought as to what kind of strength may be needed.

Protecting against tornados makes a rigid structure. Protecting against earthquakes gets you a flexible structure that a 250mph wind would eat up.Then there’s floods. So, what do you do?

Maybe the dome or pyramid is the best compromise. ymmv, ianase, imho, etc…

The buildings that faired best in the 1964 Alaska earthquake (9.2) were wood-frame. Even houses that slid off their foundations and down slopes were pretty much intact, if uninhabitable. The ones suffering the worst damage were made of concrete and pre-fab concrete panels. Of course, they weren’t on earthquake-proof foundations.

I will nominate Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building. The ingenuity used to make it both earthquake and typhoon resistant is pretty incredible. See this for more info.

As much as I love geodesic domes, they do have one fatal flaw: Once their integrity is breached, that’s it for the dome. They totally collapsed, whereas an ordinary building can lose a wall and still remain standing. Of course, domes tend to be really strong, so it takes a whale of an impact to bring one down.

Given their longevity, I’d have to say the pyramids of Egypt are the strongest. While modern buildings may be marvels of engineering, they haven’t had to endure the sheer force of time in a harsh environment like the pyramids have. Modern buildings might be capable of outlasting them, but I doubt it. For much of the pyramids existence, they were not maintained and subject to vandalism, whereas tall buildings are better maintained.

This is one of those “It depends on what you mean by strongest” questions.

The pyramids that people have mentioned are certainly strong but they aren’t really buildings, they are big solid heaps of stone. A cube of reinforced concrete 10 feet on a side will be incredibly strong and will take just about any load but it’d be a stretch to call it a “building” or a “structure”.

Wood-framed construction is very strong because it was traditionally over-designed, nailed joints will flex while soak up a lot of energy (permanent “plastic” deformation of nails takes plenty of work) and wood is both very strong and very light - another reason why wood is good in an earthquake, you don’t get the same inertial forces as something like concrete or masonry. However it’s not so good with fires (although better than you’d think!), and any building will suffer greatly if the envelope is breached during high winds and/or rain (for example, a tornado blows some debris through the wall, and once a hole has opened up the inside rapidly becomes a mess).

Steel is strong for the weight but it loses strength rapidly in a fire. For years it was assumed that steel construction would be very good under earthquake loads but after one of the recent quakes here in CA (I think it was the 1989 shock but it might have been the Loma Prieta a few years later in LA) inspections revealed a lot of damage to the joints of structural steel buildings.

Reinforced concrete is strong, fire-resistant, floods don’t hurt it and it can take a lot of impact but it’s heavy, so you get high inertial loads when the building shakes (earthquakes and high wind loads).

Masonry is very solid but under any sort of dynamic loads (earthquakes, wind, etc) it can crumble (unlike reinforced concrete, masonry construction doesn’t have any elasticity).

So it all depends on what kind of loads you are dealing with. If you are looking for the overall must indestructible structure I’d say something like the containment shell of a nuclear reactor. Those big reinforced concrete domes are designed to take just about anything without rupturing, including high earthquake loads, fire, flood, impact (like a jet crashing into the shell).

Not necessarily. A sufficent crack in the foundation will do it. Generally, these are caused by frost-heave which is quite a strong force and can be fairly subtle (although you don’t really have a basement to hide the cracks from you).

My ex-boss told me stories of hippies who built their Bucky Balls up on hills in Oregon in the 60s and barely made it out of the early winter with their lives.

Well, if you put your foundation below the frost line like you’re supposed to do, you won’t have that problem. Frost-heave can trash even a contemporary house, so it’s not like this is a dome vulnerability.

I’m no stuctural engineer so I may be waaaaay off base but I saw a blueprint for a dome that was going up in my area and they were using engineered lumber for the frame,( wooden I-joists, laminated veneer lumber beams and glued laminated beams) The domed roof is shingled. It appears as any other house would except it has the classic geodome shape. I would think that this would be a pretty damn solid structure. It has the structural advantages of the geodesic dome shape and the advantages and strengths that engineered lumber offer.
When and if I can afford to have a house built a dome is my choice. I live in a somewhat tornadic area and think the dome may offer me a little added protection over my rectangular housed neighbors.