An earthquake is the release of seismic energy in the form of waves into the Earth’s crust. The land that we live on is encrusted with light rocks that reside on the Earth’s core. The Earth’s core is a soft region formed by a heavy mass of molten rocks and iron.
The land that we live on is actually arranged like a jigsaw puzzle. In other words, it is not one continuous solid plate, but separated by trenches, faults, and sometimes come together in an overlap, which we call as mountains.
These independent pieces of this puzzle (land) are not static, but in a state of motion, due to forces from the Earth’s core, gravitational forces from Sun and Moon, and centrifugal forces from Earth’s rotation.
So these movements cause Earthquakes. Even if the movement is little, a large amount of energy is released that travels through the Earth’s crust, like ripples in a pond.
Weak buildings are not designed to withstand Earthquakes. They are strong only vertically, but not horizontally. In other words, a building will hold up to many tons of load on its floors, but it may collapse when the same load is placed on it sideways (horizontal force).
When an Earthquake happens, most destruction happens due to the sideways movement of the building when it encounters the seismic waves.
In certain building designs, the lower floor has high ceilings and more openings. The high ceilings mean taller columns, and more openings mean lesser wall length to support the building. These buildings can fall easily.
How to make earthquake resistant buildings and houses
1) Buildings and foundations should be made to resist sideways load.
2) For tall buildings, it is preferable to have a lightweight roof. You can take this further by using lightweight plywood for doors and floors.
3) The walls should be attached to a frame that supports sideways load.
4) Avoid building in soft ground.
5) Build ground beams that extend into the ground and outside the perimeter of the building built-up area.
6) Brace the building sideways / diagonally. Using a diagonal beam can do this.
7) Most houses are built wall by wall. The connection between the walls is not as strong as in a modular building system. In a modular building the walls are a single structure. Likewise, the floors, doors and other stuff can also be fitted. Modular buildings offer a much greater resistance to Earthquakes.
8) Contact an architect for more viable options or information.