Build A Better Wall

Build a Better wall is an activity for students to help with earthquake mitigation. 

This activity helps students learn how diagonal braces, shear walls, and rigid connections strengthen a structure to carry forces resulting from earthquake shaking. It can be done as a demonstration, or as group projects in a classroom. It takes preparation to assemble and drill the parts, but worth it for a permanent classroom tool.

Developed by FEMA for their "Seismic Sleuths" instructional booklet. Additional "Earthquake Safety at Home". Additional safety information is available on their website:


Two additional activities on "base isolation" are included to learn more about protecting large structures.

This activity is a good bridge between the "Earthquake Machine" and the "BOSS Model".


Students will:

  • Learn the structural elements of a building
  • Describe how the structural elements carry the horizontal and vertical loads
  • Describe the use of diagonal braces and shear walls
  • Learn about base isolation for tall buildings

Level: Novice

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Demonstration by Dr. Robert Butler on how to design a structure to withstand shaking during an earthquake. This video walks you through the parts needed to construct the model, and shows you how to build it. 

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What can you do to protect a building from earthquake shaking?  This “Build a Better Wall” classroom activity is designed to allow students to experiment with methods to build shear strength into buildings to withstand an earthquake. Uses simple materials to engineer shear walls.



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