Giant Airbags Could Protect Japanese Houses from Earthquakes

As Japan continues to rebuild after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami, one company has developed an ingenious new method to protect homes from the shaking—let them ride it out on a cushion of air.

The method, developed by Air Danshin Systems Inc., is radically different than conventionally employed dampers and band isolation systems. When the quake strikes, it activates a sensor on the property. This sensor then activates a large air compressor that forces air into a bag situated in the home's foundation. As pressure builds, the home will levitate 3cm and gently ride out the shaking, safe from the tremors below. Homeowners can also steady the home as it floats by using an indoor air valve. As the shaking subsides, the house settles back upon its foundation.

The system is currently being installed in 88 homes across Japan. The system is also being considered for larger structures and more important structures—including government buildings, office high-rises, and life-size Gundam statues. [Air Danshin via Inhabitat]