March is National Earthquake Awareness Month, which serves as a good reminder for architects and specifiers to consider how they specify ceiling structures for earthquake preparedness. This is especially important, as earthquakes aren’t strictly a west coast phenomenon—making seismic compliance a growing concern for industry professionals across the U.S. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), between 1973 and 2008 there were 21 earthquakes with a three magnitude or higher in the central and east United States. This number increased dramatically to 1,000 in 2015, largely because of induced seismicity.
There are so many unpredictable scenarios that can happen in the short span of a seismic event. One of the scariest possibilities is that the ceiling collapses, causing property damage, injury or worse. It was because of those fears that in the past, suspended ceiling systems were often avoided in areas that have high earthquake activity.
Thankfully, advances in design and technology have made suspended ceiling structures safer and seismic compliant. For example, most of USG’s current line of ceiling products is designed to be used in areas with high seismicity. But beyond choosing quality products, there are three core considerations that architects and specifiers need to keep top of mind when engineering ceilings for earthquake scenarios.
Life safety: Suspended ceiling plans should minimize the possibility for collapse onto occupants, as well as ensure that if non-structural elements fall they won’t block emergency exists.
Minimize property and functional loss: Ceilings should be engineered for durability against seismicity, because every non-structural element damaged by a suspended ceiling’s failure is a monetary loss for the building owners. Even worse, property damage can lead to occupants being unable to use that structure for the short term because it has become non-functional or uninhabitable.
Successful ceiling earthquake engineering starts with strong foundational planning, but using proven, reputable suspension ceiling materials will take the plan the rest of the way. Visit USG’s grid and suspension products pages for more information and resources. To learn more, click the infographic below.