By Sam Parker
Approximately 300,000 students who attend schools along geological fault lines are exposed to the dangers of earthquakes every day. Many of these schools are not built to withstand earthquake damages so students are taught duck-and-cover response drills, which require them to crawl underneath their desks. Through these drills, they are instructed to use their desktops as shields to block them from debris, glass and sheetrock. Even though this approach protects students from small, lightweight objects, desks often fold under the pressures of concrete, brick and steel. As they crumble, children and teachers alike are trapped underneath the rubble, unable to escape.
Jerusalem graduates create earthquake-proof desk
To address this issue, graduates Ido Bruno and Arthur Brutter designed an earthquake-proof desk for their final project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Constructed of simple materials like wood and steel, the desk is affordable, lightweight and can be carried by two children, according to the designers’ promotional video. Though targeted mostly to the education sector, the desk’s simplistic design makes it a fit for other venues such as office spaces and homes.
Its corners, called “crush zones,” absorb the bulk of the impact as the major forces move to the edges of the desk instead of to the center, according to Bezalel Academy. With this transfer of energy, the product mirrors the crumple zones of a car in that it has areas that “fold” to protect the students and teachers sitting underneath it.
Bruno and Brutter ran a series of vertical impact tests to assess the strength and durability of the product. By dropping weights ranging from about 1,000 to 2,200 pounds onto the desk, the designers were able to measure the damage one could expect if he or she were using the product as protection during an earthquake, Bezalel Academy reported. After concluding the desk could successfully weather over 1 ton, the pair determined it can withstand most destruction, barring the collapse of an entire building.
The product was also built to serve as an escape route for teachers and children. Because only the top of the desk is destroyed under pressure, the sufficient, untouched space underneath can be used as a crawlspace, according to the designers’ promotional video. If desks are lined up into rows, the unaffected areas can serve as an escape tunnel, helping individuals to quickly seek safety and emergency workers to easily reach trapped students.
Bruno and Brutter’s patent-pending design is undergoing testing in the Structural Engineering Department at Italy’s University of Padua. There is no price tag set on the desk yet, but once it is approved, the designers hope to distribute the product to earthquake-prone areas around the world.
Earthquake-proof furniture is not exclusive to Jerusalem with a company in California designing and building earthquake-proof furniture for the office, schools and home.
U.S.-based company builds disaster-proof furniture
Robert von Bereghy was inspired to create LifeGuard Structures, a company that constructs earthquake-resistant furniture, after experiencing multiple quakes in his office in Southern California.
“About 20 years ago, I was working at a law firm in Southern California which was located in a multi-story brick building,” Bereghy said in a statement on the LifeGuard Structures website. “I experienced several earthquakes while working in that building and could not get over the fact that there was no escape and no protection.”
Bereghy said many Americans believe they will not experience the same level of destruction as those living in less-developed countries since they reside in a more highly-developed nation, and because of this, they fail to properly equip themselves with the necessary protection needed to survive natural disasters.
In order to address this deficiency, Bereghy and his LifeGuard team built desks and consoles for office spaces and schools as well as beds for residential areas. The company’s standard desks are built to withstand up to 1 million pounds, according to its website, and each piece of furniture includes a LifeGuard inside and skin. Skins are available in multiple colors, styles and materials, according to the website, so buyers can easily match LifeGuard products with all of the other structures in their buildings. If the available skins do not meet a customer’s needs, they can custom design the furniture.
LifeGuard products are constructed of wood and steel or armor. Upon request, the company’s furniture may also include a survival kit, which consists of a respirator, signaling devices, emergency lighting, blankets, medical kits, tools, several weeks’ worth of food and water, and provisions for sanitary waste, LifeGuard’s website states. Prices range from about $1,800 for a standard student desk to $17,000 for a canopy bed. Interested customers can register to buy products on LifeguardStructures.com.