High-tech

Chile to export anti-earthquake equipment to Mexico

The innovative earthquake-isolation equipment is bound for Mexico City after helping several buildings withstand Chile's massive earthquake in 2010.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011  
The Chilean technology could help save lives in Mexico City. (Photo: eeliuth/Flickr) The Chilean technology could help save lives in Mexico City. (Photo: eeliuth/Flickr)

Chilean engineering firm Sirve has announced plans to export its innovative earthquake-isolation technology to Mexico.

Founded by the Dean of Universidad de Chile's Engineering Faculty, Juan Carlos de la Llera, the company has developed equipment to help protect buildings during powerful earthquakes.

The technology shot to prominence around the world when it proved to be effective in the massive earthquake that rocked Chile on February 27, 2010. Measuring 8.8 on the Richter Scale, the 'mega-quake' claimed more than 500 lives and caused over US$30 billion in damage, but several buildings equipped with the Sirve equipment emerged with minimal or no damage.

Sirve's earthquake isolation units for low rise buildings prevent the flow of energy unleashed by earth tremors, minimizing building stress and reducing damage. Its energy dissipation equipment for taller buildings converts seismic energy into heat, which it stores and then releases into the atmosphere.

The Chilean company's technology has the potential to play a crucial role in Mexico, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake in 1985. That quake, which measured 8.1 on the Richter Scale, shook the country's capital, Mexico City, claiming 10,000 lives and destroying more than 30,000 buildings.

“If the range of anti-earthquake equipment that is being produced in Chile today was available in 1985, many deaths would have been avoided,” de la Llera told Mexican daily, Milenio.

“This technology would be particularly effective around the lagoon district in Mexico City,” he added. “In fact it would be much more effective there than in Chile because the ground is softer and our equipment is better suited to that.”

Sirve is currently working with Mexican companies to install its equipment on buildings in the country's north. De la Llera said the company hoped to develop a joint venture with Mexican businesses to roll out more of the life-saving technology.

“We don't want to do this on our own,” he said. “We want to work with Mexican businesses that know the culture and local construction methods better than we do, leaving us to provide technological support.”