Fact check: Japanese firm's technology allows houses to rise off ground, avoid earthquake damage

·4 min read

The claim: Japan developing technology to raise homes above ground, protect from earthquake

Architects and engineers across the world have been working toward creating earthquake-resistant buildings for years, and some have succeeded.

A Facebook post shared April 21 highlights technology a Japanese company, Air Danshin, has been developing since 2005. The post has been shared about 77,000 times.

"Japan is working on developing a special technology that allows homes to rise above ground enough to protect the home in case of earthquakes," the post reads.

Images of a house floating above ground with what appear to be balloon-like structures underneath started spreading across social media in April, despite not being an accurate portrayal of the technology.picture.

USA TODAY reached out to the users for comment.

Air Danshin's system does, in fact, lift a house off the ground to avoid structural damage caused by earthquakes. But it uses compressed air rather than something resembling balloons.

Compressed air used to lift homes

At first glance, the house doesn't look different from other homes. Except there's an additional foundation underneath, a sensor, and an air compressor.

The sensor monitors for seismic activity and tremors. Once detected, the sensor will send a signal to an air compressor outside the house, which will flow compressed air between an installed earthquake-proof foundation and the base of the house.

Within a few seconds, Air Danshin says, the house will rise off the ground up to 1.2 inches, until the tremors have stopped. The air is then slowly released, bringing the house back to the ground.

"A floating house that is not in contact with the ground will not shake," Air Danshin wrote about the house.

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In a recent assessment, Air Danshin said 30 of its homes suffered no damage after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck parts of Japan in February.

Japan's history of earthquakes

Japan is the country with the most earthquakes recorded, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Since 2010, there have been more than 10,000 earthquakes in and around Japan, according to data from the USGS.

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A magnitude 9.1. earthquake, the strongest in Japan's history, was recorded March 11, 2011, in Tohoku.

Masatake Honda, an Air Danshin spokesperson, told Financial Times in 2013 that all the houses with the technology survived the 2011 earthquake "without damage."

There are 227 houses in Japan with the technology as of May 2021, Air Danshin's Director Kinji Inaba told USA TODAY.

Our rating: Missing context

We rate the claim that Japan is developing a technology that allows homes to rise above the ground and prevent earthquake-caused damage MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional information it could be misleading. A Japanese company, Air Danshin, created the technology in 2005 and has been implementing it in houses across the country since. But, the image posted to social media doesn't accurately portray the technology, as it doesn't have balloon-like structures underneath, and it only raises a home about one inch.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Technology uses compressed air to lift houses during quake

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