Japanese Levitating House System Could Protect Homes From Earthquakes

by , 02/29/12

natural disaster, air danshin, levitating homes, earthquake proof architecture, earthquake design, earthquake resistant, sustainable architecture, compressed air, floating home

We’ve seen quite a few creative examples of disaster-resistant architecture here at Inhabitat – from houses that rise up atop flood waters to an elastic iron alloy designed to sway with an earthquake. Now a Japanese company, Air Danshin Systems Inc., has come up with perhaps the most inventive solution we’ve seen — they fit out existing houses to levitate in the event of an earthquake. In the wake of last year’s Fukushima disaster the company is set to install the levitation system in 88 houses across Japan.

natural disaster, air danshin, levitating homes, earthquake proof architecture, earthquake design, earthquake resistant, sustainable architecture, compressed air, floating homeimage © Air Danshin, Translated by Spoon & Tamago

As fantastical as a home levitation system may seem, Air Danshin claims that the technology is not only effective, but also 1/3 cheaper than many other earthquake-proofing systems out there – and it requires little maintenance. According to Spoon & Tamago, the technology calls for a fairly simple, if powerful, set of mechanisms to be installed around a property. When an earthquake hits, a sensor responds within one second by activating a compressor, which forces an incredible amount of air under the home, pushing the structure up and apart from its foundation. The air pressure can keep the home levitating up to 3cm from the shaking foundation below. An indoor valve controls the flow of air under the house, keeping the structure steady as it “floats.”

Once the earthquake is over the home gently falls back onto an earthquake-resistant reinforced concrete foundation. While the earthquake-resistant levitation system is presently being installed in houses, we hear the Japanese firm hopes to expand to install the system in larger, potentially more critical structures. To promote the technology, Air Danshin Systems have made some fairly convincing, and somewhat humorous, videos to demonstrate their technology in action.

+ Air Danshin Systems, Inc

Via Spoon & Tamago and Archinect

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  1. João Rodrigues March 8, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Wouldn’t it become easier for a hurricane to take it out of the ground though?

  2. arnoldroff December 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    That is a great idea, another is this: the NORAD installation is isolated by custom-made springs that are capped on top and bottom ends. Any ground movement is not noticeable. Interesting.

  3. lorenzo ramos March 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    would like to get mr.damien hurst email to show him my website or maybe you can pass it on http://www.ambientehomes.com
    tel# 1718-971-3070
    we are also locared in the u.k.

  4. Buzzsaw March 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I think all of the comments so far are pretty reasonable concerns.

    I live in SoCal and in 1994 Northridge quake (mag. 6.9) the electricity went out immediately – the transformers have seismic safety switches. My 4 year old saw the blue flashes of the transformers shutting off and thought they were magic stars.

    All houses here are required to be bolted to the foundation. Poorly bolted homes literally slid off of their foundations during an earthquake. Now the levitating house is as slippery as a puck on an air-hockey table. All seismic isolators will also require a dampening system to hold the house in place.

    Also, many earthquakes bounce up and down. Areas of Northridge recorded vertical accelerations as much as 1g. (the force of gravity). In other words, enough force to throw the house upwards. Be cause the house is detached from the foundation, what prevents the vertical motion of the footing from whacking the house apart?

    I’d like to see how well the house does on a shake-table with a motion that more accurately resembles an earthquake before I move in.

  5. mjamgb March 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    My concern is more the myoptic sort… what about other disasters now that the house is not firmly attached to a foundation, high wind, flood, etc?

    How many houses can actually load the floor systems to raise the structure without causing other extensive damage? Interesting technical challenges regarding utilities (electical, gas, water, sewer). What if the house just crumbles from the loading?

    If you get a significant horizontal displacement (six inches is common) will you be able to set the house back down safely? will the skirts or whatever aligns it just x-fer loads to the house anyway?

    Yeah, it would be nice to see some more technical exposure here.

  6. l5gcw0b March 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    There is an air tank in the diagram, and a big enough valve can fill it quickly as the structure can handle.

    A small battery backup would be more than sufficient to open a valve and fill the airbag.

    Hovercraft have skirts, not airbags.

    Stop hating.

  7. countach March 2, 2012 at 12:40 am

    What’s to stop the house floating off its foundation like a hovercraft?

  8. Cletis March 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    @nigelhay: I’m thinking that the compressor and air look one will fare just fine. The compressor is likely rubber-mounted, although they tend to be rugged enough that this would be overkill anyway. And what kind of damage do you expect to see done to a flexible high-pressure line?

  9. luismh March 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    What if the electricity is out, like in many cases during an earthquake. Do they have a emergency generator? how reliable?
    I still think that good design is the only earthquake proof technology.

  10. jokyonim March 1, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Sort of like an airbag for a house instead of a car? Agree with the concern of getting air quickly enough through the pump. Earthquakes last seconds, so response time for the compressor will need to be fast. I wonder if the car airbag technology of using a chemical reaction to produce nitrogen gas would work better/faster than trying to pump in the air.

  11. Nehmo March 1, 2012 at 8:10 am

    How does the compressor pump enough air that quickly? What’s the advantage over a flexible foundation? And so on. The article doesn’t provide any technical details. `~- Nehmo

  12. nigelhay March 1, 2012 at 3:20 am

    So what happens to the compressor when the earth quake hits. Does it levitate as well.. Not possible i think.. and the air line to the levitating mechanism can also be dammaged.. i think this has holes in it.. :(

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