British Columbia

New seismic technology pitched for St Paul's Hospital

St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver could be one of the first buildings in Canada to get seismic upgrades to protect it from earthquakes using a new technology called base-isolation.

Seismic upgrade

10 years ago
Duration 1:59
Engineers want to protect St Paul's Hospital in Vancouver by putting it on giant flexible bearings

St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver could be one of the first buildings in Canada to be seismically upgraded using a new technology called base-isolation, to protect it from earthquakes.

Engineer John Sherstobitoff unveiled the proposal at a forum Wednesday night as one of two options to seismically upgrade the 100-year-old building.

In simple terms, a line would be cut right around the foundation of the building and it is then mounted on top off flexible rubber pads, so that when an earthquake hits, the ground moves, but the building stays put.

The upgrade would take an estimated eight years to complete and not all parts of the hospital would be included. The Comox Annex would be replaced with a new building instead.

Big in Japan and Chile

Sherstobitoff says the idea has been used extensively in Japan and Chile, but Canada has lagged behind in adopting it.

"It's something that I personally very much believe in. I think we're behind the rest of the world in implementing these," he said.

He says fire halls, emergency centres and transmission facilities could all use the protection.

Sherstobitoff's firm Ausenco Sandwell already has approval to base-isolate a Vancouver heritage school and a private client wants their house done.

He says the technology costs a little more than other options, but that's not why it has not yet been used in Canada.

"The number one reason it hasn't been used is because we haven't had an earthquake here."

He notes both Chile and Japan adopted the technology after they had destructive earthquakes.

"Why is Chile doing it? They just had a big earthquake there."