Many of Kobe, Japan’s elevated expressways, bridges and buildings collapsed last week due to flaws in the Japanese approach to earthquake engineering design, according to American experts who went to Japan to inspect the damage firsthand.
The Japanese take a brute strength approach to structural engineering, these experts said. Support columns tend to be huge and brittle. When the ground shakes in an anticipated manner, the columns are meant to stand firm and thereby resist collapse.
American engineers take a different approach, the experts said. Support columns are smaller and more ductile, which means they may deform and sustain damage during ground motions but they do not collapse.