Stanford engineers built an earthquake-resistant house. Watch the shake test


Isn’t this just the same idea that they’ve always used in Japan?

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Better not build that on a hill.

From the door, it appears to be an earthquake resistant frat house.

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Not living in an earthquake prone area I was always under the assumption that you also experienced a vertical component as well? And doesn’t this basically mean the house is floating on the foundation, which of course kind of limits the ability to have a basement (but that might be a moot point in earthquake country anyway).

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Video appears to be borked; it won’t open from any of the links for me.


Every earthquake I’ve been has always felt more horizontal than vertical. Buildings tend to sway horizontally as well. I’m sure there’s a vertical component but I think mitigating the horizontal component is like 80% of the battle.

The slippy pads are certainly a neat idea, though I wonder how they hold up after having a house sit on top of them for ~30 years.

Sure would be a neat story though. “Yep, my house used to be six feet over thataway. Hopefully the next earthquake pushes the other way because I’m sitting on the edge of the pads.”


What happens when one of the sliders falls off its base? It looks like the one in the video was just inches away from the edge.

Cute, but this house has literally no connections to anything. I guess it’s nice that it didn’t collapse in a heap, but all of the stairs and porches and all of the plumbing would be broken off.

Click the top left link and it’ll take you to the youtube page. That’s the only way I got it to work.


In 1996 or 1997 I saw an exhibit at SFMOMA of sketches for earthquake related buildings by Lebbeus Woods. He had a similar idea. A house that was on a piece of ceramic or something like that that was tethered at the corner to a long pole. He also had a design for a house that would fall deeper and deeper into a fault and stay there. I love his architectural drawings and architectural theory.

Put the base on sliders on another base!


“It’s bases all the way down.”


The mains plumbing could easily be connected via similarly flexible pipe, then all the internal plumbing would be just the same. I don’t see why steps and a porch wouldn’t simply be on the same base.

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Or design some kind of connector that snaps in a predictable way. Make it easy to replace and fail in a safe way, then install it between the ground pipes and the house pipes.

      The mains plumbing could easily be connected via similarly 

flexible pipe, then all the internal plumbing would be just the same. I
don’t see why steps and a porch wouldn’t simply be on the same base.

If that all worked, it would be awesome.

Having grown up in earthquake prone country and ridden out more than a couple including Loma Prieta I would like to add:
Structures that don’t collapse on top of you are a fantastic goal, even if you do have to redo your porch or water connection afterward.


Most earthquakes are horizontal. Not all of them though. The Northridge earthquake in California Produced a sizable vertical shift and substantial damage to structures only designed for horizontal motion. It was interesting over the following years to see all of the freeway support pylons around California being retrofitted to deal with the mass of the road structure possibly being launched up and falling back down on the supports.

I was thinking about the hill problem, as my mother-in-law’s house is in Lyttelton, which is a part of Christchuch on the side of some very steep hills. Lyttelton was damaged really badly by the Christchurch earthquakes (and thousands of aftershocks) a few years back. I’m no engineer, but perhaps someone that is can decide whether this solution might solve the hill problem:

Stick the house on this style of footings, then build strong but somewhat flexible “circular buffer-stops*” a decent distance around each footing. If my physics understanding is right, in a small quake they would behave exactly as they do in the video; in a big quake the house might slide and the footings would hit the buffer, which would obviously lesson the effectiveness of the house skating around the ground to avoid shake damage, but would at least stop it from falling down the hill. A minor compromise in my utterly informed opinion.

*Sorry I’m a train nerd and that was the easiest way I could explain the concept.

The 2011 Christchurch (New Zealand) earthquake had more vertical than horizontal component in the movement. That and the fact that the city was thought to be in a relatively (for NZ, anyway) geologically inactive area meant that the city was comprehensively munted —that’s Kiwi for badly broken— and we’re going to be paying for it for a very, very long time …

Sounds great until the kids lose their air hockey pucks and jack the house up to get spares.

That’s still a vast improvement over the alternative.