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Structure Spotlights: Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge Designed to Withstand Earthquakes

  • 02 July, 2019

Everywhere and anywhere we go, there are products literally everywhere that were created because of engineers. The roads that you drive on were strategically mapped out by transportation engineers; the air conditioners that keep commercial buildings cool during the summer were designed by HVAC mechanical engineers; and- the purpose of this article- the structures all around you, whether they be towering skyscrapers or bridges- were strategically designed by architectural and structural engineers.

As an engineering licensure exam prep provider, we want to celebrate the amazing products that engineers around the world (especially our students) create. This, as well as future Structural Spotlight articles, will focus on one structure in the United States that stands out.

For this feature, we want to put the spotlight on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.

If you've ever visited Charleston, South Carolina, you've probably seen colorful, colonial buildings, multiple groups of history tours, and this tall, two diamond bridge suspended over the Cooper River.

Structure Spotlights: Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge Designed to Withstand Earthquakes

So why did we choose this bridge to spotlight? While there are many spectacular aspects of the design of the bridge, the main reason we want to feature the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is because of the stability that was put into strong consideration in the architecture of the bridge.

In 1886, the strongest earthquake on the east coast struck the town of Charleston, SC, causing $5-$6 billion in damages. Almost all of the buildings in the town were damaged and had to be repaired or torn down and built back up. The earthquake was measured having an approx. 6.9-7.3 magnitude- which, if you know anything about earthquakes- anything above a 6 magnitude is considered strong to major and can cause detrimental damage.

According to an article on the matter of seismic activity in the Charleston, SC area, the area is predicted to have a high chance of a 6 magnitude earthquake in the next 50 years, whereas 42 other states only have a "reasonable chance."

With this in mind, as well as the common thought by geologists that earthquakes typically repeat themselves every 100 years or so, modern architectural projects were built with the focus of complete stability in order to maintain the least damage possible in case of an earthquake. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina was one project that PE Architectural engineers, as well as Structural engineers, focused on. Opened in 2005, the 4-km-long bridge was designed by engineers to withstand seismic activity. With a large span, the bridge was constructed to withstand up to a 7.4 magnitude earthquake.

If you visit Charleston, SC in the near future, this bridge is a must to see! This bridge, along with various other amazing structures nationwide, were all strategically designed by PE Architectural and Structural engineers.

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