A concrete spray that keeps walls from crumbling in a quake is being tested in B.C.

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UBC researchers unveil earthquake-proof concrete
UBC researchers have unveiled what could be a game-changer in the seismic upgrade of buildings. And as Aaron McArthur reports, a Vancouver elementary school will get the first real-world application – Oct 10, 2017

A city primed for “The Big One” might seem a perfect place to test a concrete spray that could keep walls from collapsing in an earthquake.

That’s precisely what’s happening at one elementary school, which is being used as a pilot project for a spray developed by engineers at UBC which, they say, could keep walls standing when the shaking begins.

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The spray works as a kind of fibre enforcement, bridging cracks in a building’s structure.

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“The concrete will continue to take stresses without collapsing,” said Dr. Nemy Banthia, a professor in UBC’s Department of Civil Engineering.

It’s not hard for a concrete wall to collapse in a quake. But a demonstration of this spray showed that a wall kept standing when subject to vigorous shaking on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Mexico had an early warning system for its big quake. Vancouver doesn’t yet

If it were used around the world, the spray would mean lessened earthquake risk for millions of people — including in B.C., where coastal residents worry about a possible 9.2-magnitude earthquake striking one day.

The material is being sprayed on the walls of Annie B. Jamieson Elementary School in East Vancouver as part of a pilot project; more study is needed before it’s rolled out any further.

One-hundred and fifty schools throughout B.C. are considered “high-risk” when it comes to earthquakes, and there’s no timeline on when they’ll have seismic upgrading completed.

“I imagine that more work will continue, and [Education] Minister [Rob] Fleming is committed to making sure that our kids go to school in safe buildings,” Minister of Advanced Education Melanie Mark said Tuesday.

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