How the '64 quake inspired Nesbett Courthouse design
Video from inside the Nesbett Courthouse from the Nov. 30 earthquake quickly went viral after the 7.0 quake hit Anchorage.
Captured on the sixth floor, the recording of the courtroom starts just seconds before the room began to shake. Assistant District Attorney Luba Bartnitskaia can be seen ducking under a table, taking cover.
"I look around, I see the whole room shaking, it's not stopping. The longer it kept going I definitely started freaking out," Bartnitskaia said.
Within hours the video had been viewed more than one million times on Twitter and shared with news outlets around the globe.
"The whole world saw that, right?" said Michael Carlson. "I said, 'Hey, there's my building and there's ceiling tiles falling out.'"
Carlson is principal architect with McCool Carlson Green, the firm that designed the Nesbett Courthouse.
He said the building, which was constructed in the early 1990s, was built with seismic shaking in mind.
"It took a lot of time, a lot of experts and a lot of conversations to develop a strategy everyone believed would be effective for that site," said Carlson.
He said the location of the courthouse on the bluff played a a major role in the design.
"When the ground shakes, there's some weakness on the underground soil in the area that allows the ground to slide as a block. It's the classic movement we saw in '64," Carlson explained.
To combat that problem, Nesbett has three feet of solid concrete. Carlson said that was done in one continuous pour that took 28 hours and every truck in Anchorage plus a few from Fairbanks.
The block was reinforced with steel beams on both sides to ensure the building would bend in a quake, not break.
"If the ground drops out underneath in the center of the building some place we expect that that concrete will actually deform and follow the ground, but hold together and not separate," Carlson said.
The solid foundation meant the building held up in last Friday's quake just as designed.
"Really my take away from the whole experience is what happened afterwards, how everyone really came together in our community, how obviously safe our buildings are, the structural integrity of Anchorage," Bartnitskaia said. "That was really impressive."
The thoughtful planning architects put into every design makes buildings in Anchorage likely to stay standing as the earth shakes.
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