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Earthquake-proof school desk provides cover for natural disasters


April 25, 2012

A new school desk has been designed to protect students during an earthquake by absorbing the impact of falling concrete and steel weighing up to 1000 kg (about 1 ton)

A new school desk has been designed to protect students during an earthquake by absorbing the impact of falling concrete and steel weighing up to 1000 kg (about 1 ton)

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Anyone who has been through earthquake drills in school knows the standard defense against falling debris is for students to crawl under their desks. Unfortunately, while this might block a few pieces of stray drywall and glass, a wooden desk isn't going to withstand the crushing weight from large chunks of concrete or steel. In fact, people hiding under their desks could very likely become trapped with no way out. That's why two designers have developed an "earthquake-proof" desk that can absorb the impact of up to a ton of weight and even provide emergency routes for rescue crews to reach trapped students.

Arthur Brutter and Ido Bruno built the desk as their final project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and then presented it as part of the school's Design Bonanza exhibit in Milan, Italy. When designing it, the two students had to consider not just the durability of the desk, but also how it would be used every day in the classroom. To keep the weight down so it could be moved easily by students and teachers, they settled on outfitting each corner of the school desk with collapsible "crush zones" that distribute the brunt of an impact to the edges, rather than the middle. They also constructed it from inexpensive materials to keep the final product at an affordable price for schools.

Finally the desk was submitted to a battery of tests by having different materials of different weights dropped on it from a height. The designers dropped solid blocks of steel and concrete as well as bags of rocks weighing up to 1,000 kg (about 1 ton) onto their desk. Each time, the top of the desk was destroyed, but the bottom remained intact, giving students enough space to remain safe from harm. With the desks lined up in rows, this space could also act as escape tunnels for students to escape or be more easily rescued by emergency workers.

Brutter and Bruno are currently awaiting a patent and official approval from Padua University in Italy so they can begin distributing their desks to disaster-prone areas around the world.

Source: Bezalel Academy via Dezeen

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

Although interesting, I'd like to see information about the desk's ability to have a heavy student "plop down" on top of it at a corner ... something extremely likely to happen! I'd want to be sure that the crumple-zone doesn't crumple at that point :)

Stan Sieler

Any wedge-shaped piece of concrete will brake that desktop. The concept of hiding under a desk is ludicrous, the triangular space close to the walls is a lot safer, but nooo... That's the "official" positiion! The "science" is settled, right?

Edgar Castelo

I can't see the 'crush zones' being beneficial for anything other than a sales pitch. However I do see people losing fingers and hands as they brace the desk in it's collapsible regions.

It's good to see people thinking about and pushing for these things but I should hope that a typical desk designed to last 10 years in a school environment should already be sturdy enough to take a large impact.


Edgar, it was the concrete that was moving not the desk, so there was no need to break the desk.


Edgar Castelo, the safety of the triangular space against the wall is a dangerous myth in almost every case. This desk is a good idea, but what is to stop it being jolted and bounced out of position during the motion of an earthquake? It will not offer any protection at all if it is designed to be easy to move, since it will move away from the person sheltering under it.


This strikes me as valuable work, which, along with other measures, could save lives in earthquake-prone areas. As to the desk being Ā«jolted and bounced our of positionĀ» during an earthquake, presumably a student sheltering under the desk would also be jolted and bounced in more or less the same way and thus follow with the desk. But providing something to hold on to under the desk would probably not be a bad idea...


It seems to me you would be better off strengthening the building structure to prevent collapse, rather than use this furniture.

Seriously, what good is it when the floor collapses?

Jon A.

Having grown up in SoCal, I am pretty conscious of earthquake safety. I think some of the detractors are missing the point. First of all, the cost of a desk as opposed to re-building deficient structures is obvious. Second, it is easy to create multiple scenarios where this would not work. I don't think there is a man-made structure in existence which can anticipate all possible dangers in a bad quake. This being said, I am encouraged someone is doing something that will protect school children.

As a student I was taught to grab the legs of the desk and hold on during a quake. If students are not drilled properly in earthquake safety, panic sets in and nearly nothing will help them but divine intervention.

Bonnie Dillabough

Everything commented on this this article is addressed by LifeGuard Structures. Their earthquake proof desks appear to ACTUALLY be earthquake proof and building collapse proof. This includes what Bonnie, Stan, Jon, mhenriday, Larine, etc. have all said.

I'm sorry, but this desk simply cannot be up to the task. Seriously, would you get under that? I guess it is better than nothing...

Does anybody disagree?


Couldn't you just stack them up and keep the building from even falling down? Hehe, only kidding. I think instead of this, schools should be remodeled in certain areas to allow for earthquake free zones. This would be very expensive though, education already needs funding as it is, I guess.

Branden Borysewich
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