Steel in seismic zones: energy absorption and strength

Steel has long been the preferred choice for the construction of structures in seismic zones due to its remarkable energy absorption and strength. It is clear that natural disasters, such as earthquakes, are a great threat to the safety of people and buildings, so it is vital to use materials like steel that are capable of enduring and mitigating the destructive effects of such events.

Importance of strength in seismic zones: the role of steel in energy absorption

In the areas of greatest seismic risk, it is essential to build buildings and other structures with high resistance to these natural phenomena. In this sense, the buildings that hold up best in earthquakes have been proving to be buildings with a steel structure.

Steel is recognized for its energy absorption capacity, as evidenced by multiple studies over the years. This is due to its high strength and ductility. When a seismic movement occurs, steel can deform without breaking, which allows it to absorb and dissipate the energy generated by the earthquake. This capacity for controlled deformation prevents the fracture and sudden collapse of the structure, reducing not only material damage, but also the loss of human lives.

Properties of steel that make it ideal for seismically active areas

Some of the properties that make steel perfect for use in buildings in areas of high seismic activity are listed below.


Steel is known for its incredible strength. Its ability to withstand extreme forces makes it an excellent choice when it comes to building in areas at risk of unpredictable natural phenomena.

Ductility and toughness

In addition to its strength, steel is highly ductile and tough. These latter properties make it possible for steel structures to bend without breaking, an essential attribute in order to withstand the shaking of an earthquake.

Energy absorption

One of the most impressive qualities of steel is its ability to absorb energy. In an earthquake, this allows structures to dissipate the force of the earthquake, thus reducing the impact on the building.

Fatigue strength and weldability

Everything built with steel has high fatigue strength, which means it can withstand repetitive loads without breaking. In addition, its weldability makes it possible to create strong and durable bonds between the different components of the structures.

Applications of steel in earthquake-resistant construction

The qualities described above make steel an ideal material for use in structures located in areas of seismic risk. Some of the examples where it is most commonly used are:

High-rise buildings

High-rise buildings need to be especially resistant to earthquakes, and steel is often the ideal choice to make them as safe as possible. Its high strength and ductility make it possible for these structures to withstand seismic forces without damage or deformation.

Industrial buildings

Industrial buildings, such as processing plants and power plants, can also benefit from using steel. Its high strength to weight ratio and durability make it a cost-effective option for these applications. It is important to keep in mind that, if an industrial structure is damaged in an earthquake, serious accidents can be triggered by the machinery and energy sources that the structure contains.

Residential buildings

Steel, especially light gauge steel, is a popular choice for residential buildings in areas of high seismic activity. Its flexibility and strength make it a safe and durable option, protecting residents’ lives as much as possible during a high-magnitude disaster.


Structural steel is highly recommended for building bridges in seismic areas due to its ability to resist and absorb large loads and forces generated during an earthquake. Its strength and flexibility allow the structure to remain intact and safe, minimizing damage in the event of a quake.

Steel buildings against seismic movements: case studies

Currently, there are many steel buildings designed to resist strong earthquakes. Some of the most significant examples are:

  1. The Taipei 101 Building in Taiwan: this 508-meter-high skyscraper is considered one of the safest buildings in terms of earthquake resistance. Its reinforced steel structure and viscous mass damper system enable it to withstand earthquakes of up to magnitude 7.3. During the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, the building moved side-to-side, but returned to its upright position without significant structural damage.
  2. Hanshin Bridge in Kobe, Japan: After the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake, it was decided to rebuild the Hanshin Bridge using high-strength steel. The new bridge was designed to withstand earthquakes of magnitude 8.5 and to minimize sway and vibration during seismic movements.
  3. The Gran Torre Costanera in Santiago, Chile: this 300-meter-high skyscraper is located in one of the world’s most active seismic zones. To ensure its safety, high-strength steel and an advanced energy absorption system were used to reduce vibrations.

If you are looking for solid and reliable elements for your projects, you will want to explore the wide range of high-quality, resistant steel parts and components that we have available at ULMA Forged Solutions. Our dedication to excellence has led us to implement the most advanced manufacturing processes, which guarantees the durability and strength of our products. In addition, our team of highly trained experts will be happy to provide you with advice and support on whatever you need — don’t hesitate to contact us to find out what we can do for you!