how to build a house to withstand a 9.5 earthquake

How to build a house to withstand a 9.5 earthquake? There is no doubt about the fact that earthquakes can be highly devastating.

The higher the magnitude on the Richter scale, the higher the chances of witnessing serious damage to your property.

And that is why people living in earthquake-prone areas often ask, “Can my house withstand an earthquake?”

So, what do you think? How can a building withstand an earthquake?

You need to focus on the foundation, use materials with the correct balance of flexibility and rigidity, use seismic dampers, and follow other guidelines to build an earthquake-safe house. 

Do Earthquakes Occur Frequently?

do earthquakes occur frequently

While you may not know it always, earthquakes are rather frequent. In fact, over 55 earthquakes happen daily around the world. It means you have about 20,000 annual earthquakes.

The upside is that the vast majority of these earthquakes are so small on the Richter scale that you rarely notice them. 

But still, about 16 of them are greater than 7.0 on the Richter scale. And they can be devastating depending on how far you are from the epicenter.

And if it is close to a magnitude of 9.5, it is hard to imagine how much devastation it will cause. 

How Can an Earthquake Affect Your House?

An earthquake can be extremely dangerous because its shockwaves extend rapidly throughout the ground.

Most buildings in earthquake-prone zones are usually capable of handling vertical forces, they still lack the ability to handle side-to-side forces.

And that makes earthquakes dangerous.

how can an earthquake affect your house

This strong horizontal movement can vibrate floors, walls, beams, columns, and the connectors holding a building together.

And when there is a greater difference in movement between the top and bottom of a structure, the stress can be too much for it to handle.

If that stress continues for long enough, you may end up seeing the whole structure collapsing.

4.0 to 4.9Minor shaking with no damage
5.0 to 5.9Moderate shaking without much damage
6.0 to 6.9Strong shaking, with a possibility of damaging older buildings
7.0 to 7.9Major shaking with widespread damage
8.0 to 8.9Severe shaking causing damage to well-designed structures
9.0 and aboveCatastrophic shaking leading to massive destruction

Can You Build a House to Withstand Earthquakes?

earthquake-resistant house construction

It is natural to feel concerned when you live in an area tagged as a high-risk zone, and that is when many people think of ways to build an earthquake-safe house.

But is it really possible to make a building strong enough to handle a 9.5 earthquake?

Well, the good news is that you can definitely build one such house – but remember, it is not going to be cheap.

The reason is that you have to follow many details while designing and constructing your building.

For instance, some of the most important aspects include:

  • Choice of materials
  • Land location
  • Proportion of the volumes
  • Regular geometry

So, paying attention to all these elements can be tricky, but it will definitely help to make your house earthquake-safe. 

How to Build a House to Withstand a 9.5 Earthquake?

earthquake-resistant house at magnitude 9.5.

Considering exactly how frequent earthquakes are becoming, it is natural to wonder how to make earthquake-resistant buildings. It is possible but it is not going to be easy to handle a 9.5 earthquake.

Throughout the construction process, you have to follow certain design elements and keep specific requirements in mind.

But if implemented correctly, your house will be able to withstand a massive earthquake.

Keep in mind that seismic engineering is not in a position to stop the perception of massive earthquakes, it can definitely help maintain the integrity of your building.

Here is how to build one such property: 

Focus on the Foundation

focus on the foundation

Developing a versatile base for a structure may enhance its stability in the event of an earthquake.

A good idea is to implement a sturdy base slab constructed from reinforced concrete and intersecting bands on top of a middle layer of sand.

Moreover, a trench may also be incorporated around the base to provide extra safeguarding.

Try Floating Foundation

To entirely detach the foundation from a building’s superstructure is the antithesis of a robust connection.

The effectiveness of this contemporary method is remarkable as it enables the ground to vibrate and shift without causing any disturbance to the structure.

It can be done using large lead-rubber bearings containing dense lead cores.

The bearings function as a means of separating the structure from the foundation, all the while ensuring a robust link to uphold the building. 

Do Not Ignore Geometry

do not ignore geometry

The majority of buildings are constructed with walls that intersect at right angles, and this design choice serves a specific purpose.

In terms of structure, this particular style is unparalleled. Regular and symmetrical designs are greatly favored in regions where there are potential hazards.

The walls ought to be cut at right angles and balanced in size. To achieve this, the engineer, architect, and skilled professional must utilize their creativity and engineering expertise.

Only then will they be able to construct a stylish and secure house, capable of withstanding earthquakes, as well as other unforeseen disasters and accidents.

Fact: When considering geometry, opting for dome-shaped structures is the ideal decision in this context. 

Maintain the Right Balance of Flexibility and Rigidity

balance flexibility and rigidity

Ensuring the materials are securely joined together is crucial.

That is especially true for components, such as:

  • Girders and columns
  • Enclosures and slabs
  • Flaps
  • Load walls

When the concrete is poured, it is essential that all these elements are cast simultaneously. 

An Important Consideration

When it comes to equipment, it is essential to utilize identical steel components for connecting.

If there is any seismic activity, it is important for the structure to possess both stiffness and rigidity to prevent damage.

Fact: It is important for any structure to also have enough flexibility to avoid collapsing, while being able to adapt to the seismic movements by stretching and contracting. 

Check The Quality of Building Materials

check the quality of building materials

It is imperative that the materials utilized in the construction are consistent and of high quality to ensure there is absolutely no compromise.

Given that construction is a collaborative process, it is imperative that all the materials used exhibit consistency.

The complete integration is what demonstrates the building’s earthquake resistance.

The chosen materials must possess the ability to absorb seismic energy and subsequently release it as needed. 

Utilize Seismic Dampers

utilize seismic dampers

In order to build a house that can withstand a 9.5 earthquake, you need to look for ways to improve shock absorption.

Seismic dampers are often considered for this purpose. Seismic dampers are designed to absorb harmful energy, safeguarding the structure from experiencing any damage.

In general, when the diameter of the damper is increased, its capacity to withstand force also increases. 

Interestingly, you can find dampers capable of withstanding loads ranging from 25 to 1,100 tons

An Example to Consider

During the 1960s, NASA collaborated closely with engineers to create innovative damper systems for the swing arms of their rockets.

Initially, it opted for a shock isolation system powered by gas.

But, over time, it advanced to a fluidics-based system that remains in use presently for space station launches and safeguarding structures against earthquakes.

Fact: Applying a fine coating of graphene onto a pad made of natural rubber is considered an affordable damping solution for both commercial and residential structures. 

Try Reinforcement Techniques

try reinforcement techniques

In order to endure a collapse, structures must redistribute the forces that pass through, and this can be done using various reinforcement techniques.

For instance: 

Shear Walls

Shear walls are an effective construction technique that aids in the transmission of seismic forces.

Consisting of numerous panels, these walls assist in maintaining the structural integrity of a building when it undergoes motion.

Diagonal steel cross braces are commonly used to support shear walls.

These structural beams have the ability to withstand both compression and tension, effectively mitigating pressure and pushing forces. 



Diaphragms play a crucial role in the overall structure of a building.

Diaphragms play a crucial role in alleviating stress from the floor and transferring forces to the vertical elements of the building.

They achieve that by joining:

  • The levels of the structure
  • It’s top covering
  • The platforms positioned on top 

Movement-Resisting Frames

Movement-resisting frames offer enhanced versatility in the architectural layout of a structure.

These constructions are positioned within the joints of a building, enabling the flexibility of columns and beams while maintaining the rigidity of the joints.

Fact: Movement-resistant frames help withstand the heightened seismic forces of an earthquake, while granting designers the flexibility to arrange the various components of the building. 


building a 9.5 earthquake-resistant house

How to build a house to withstand a 9.5 earthquake? Not considering certain design ideas when constructing your house in an earthquake-prone zone can be a big mistake.

Thankfully, building a house capable of withstanding a 9.5 earthquake is possible.

Yes, it can be expensive, as you have to focus on geometry, a stronger foundation, using high-quality materials with better flexibility, and so on.

But, remember that making these changes can help safeguard your investment for decades.