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New CPMC Hospital Using Goo-Filled Walls To Dampen Shaking From Earthquakes

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Monday's 4.0 magnitude earthquake was just a taste of what Bay Area faults can do, and engineers building Sutter Health's new California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco are using technology employed in Japan that could keep the facility open in the event of the "big one."

The new hospital facility will have 120 viscous wall dampers, which are shock absorbers designed to slow shaking during an earthquake.  The dampers are filled with a proprietary material developed by a Japanese company.

"During an earthquake, a building will want to move very violently in each direcetion.  A viscous wall damper will actually slow down the movement of that building," Project Director Paul Klemish said.

Sutter Health's decision to make their new hospital the first to use viscous wall dampers in the United States was largely based on the facility's location.

"On this site, we have a difference of elevation of 45 feet from one side from Post to Van Ness," Panos Lampsas of Sutter Health said.

The panels are made in Reno, where the viscous goo is heated to 150 degrees, pumped in, and then carefully transported upright to the construction site.

"We transport them upright because they do have viscous fluid, and it's very thick fluid.  If we tilt them on their sides, there will be a little bit of settlement in the damper," Lampsas said.

The goal is simple: keep the hospital open when the "big one" hits.

"This hospital will remain fully operational, will be able to serve the community," Lampsas said.

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