A large-scale test of Intelligent Composite Seismic Wallpaper.
Credit: Courtesy of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology A large-scale test of Intelligent Composite Seismic Wallpaper.

As seismologists often like to say, "Earthquakes don't kill people. Buildings do." The fact that most earthquake-related deaths are due to collapsing structures suggests there's still much work to do in seismic-proof design.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany agree, and have developed an earthquake-resistant wallpaper to give occupants more time to escape buildings when an earthquake hits. The material, called Intelligent Composite Seismic Wallpaper, is actually a textile that consists of glass fibers embedded in different orientations within a layer of mortar. The scientists produced the textile according to the framework of the POLYTECT (Polyfunctional Technical Textiles against Natural Hazards) EU project to reinforce the masonry walls of buildings in seismically active regions.

Depending on the availability and cost of a commercially produced version of the textile, the new wallpaper could provide priceless insurance against loss of life in earthquake-prone hotspots.

Blaine Brownell is a regularly featured columnist whose stories appear on this website each week. His views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.