Largest Seismically Isolated Building

Ten years after an earthquake that killed 17,000 in Istanbul and caused billions of dollars in property damage, scientists expect another big one sometime in the next 30 years.

In an article on, Alexis Madrigal says the new international terminal at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport, now complete and open for business, is the world’s largest seismically isolated building. Rather than sit on the soil, the terminal is built on top of more than 300 isolators that can move side-to-side during an earthquake, Madrigal writes. The terminal stretches over more than two million square feet and is designed to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.

“What an isolation system does is that it enables the building to move through large displacements in unison,” said Atila Zekioglu, the engineer at the Firm Arup, who designed the building. “And in doing that, you absorb earthquake energy.”

Michael Constantinou, a State University of New York at Buffalo seismic isolation expert, said many buildings in the U.S., including three hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, are using the new isolators. While San Francisco Airport’s international terminal was built in a similar way, Constantinou said the new “triple friction pendulum” isolators are more compact and make it more cost-effective to build a quake-proof building.

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