Why We're Not Building Seismically Safer Buildings

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A screen shows the countdown to the moment a simulated 7.8 magnitude earthquake hits at the Command Center during a functional exercise for first responders in a simulated earthquake drill on March 21, 2013 at the Office of Emergency Management in Los Angeles, California. This year's exercise featured the California Integrated Seismic Network's Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration System, as seen on screens pictured here. (Photo: Federic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

When a major earthquake hits the Bay Area, experts say big cities may be out of commission for months. That likely won’t be the case in Japan, where they’re constructing buildings that not only can survive quakes but also remain functional. It’s thanks to advances in technology that allow the ground to shake but keep the building still. The technique, called base isolation, is used in thousands of buildings in Japan and in several other countries vulnerable to earthquakes, but not here. New York Times reporter Thomas Fuller joins Forum to discuss what he learned about the reasons why.


Thomas Fuller, San Francisco bureau chief, New York Times