DRH-Asia: Disaster Reduction Hyperbase
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1. Title


ID: DRH 64 “Elephant foot on tire” concept
Hazard: Earthquake

Implementation Oriented Technology (IOT)

Proposer: Ingemar Saevfors
Date posted: 08 December 2010
Date published: 25 January 2011
Copyright © 2011 Ingemar Saevfors (proposer). All rights reserved.

“Elephant foot on tire” concept

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Ingemar Sävfors
architect/urban planner

Saevfors Consulting AB
Kallangsvag 73, 18144 Lidingo, Sweden
+46 70 3936761

2. Major significance / Summary

Used tires can be built into house foundations to work as base isolators. The “Elephant foot on tire” concept is based on low cost construction principles: In the bottom of the foundation ditches round river stones work as roller bearings. The tires slide on top in an earth quake and help also to absorb the vertical ground movements.

3. Keywords

earth quake mitigation, low cost, construction

II. Categories

4. Focus of this information

Implementation Oriented Technology (IOT)

5. Users

5-1. Anticipated users: Community leaders (voluntary base) , Administrative officers , Municipalities , National governments and other intermediate government bodies (state, prefecture, district, etc.) , NGO/NPO project managers and staff , International organizations (UN organizations and programmes, WB, ADRC, EC, etc.) , Financing and insurance business personnel , Experts , Architects and engineers , Information technology specialists , Urban planners , Rural planners , Environmental/Ecological specialists , Others

DRR oriented consultants and practioners

5-2. Other users: Policy makers , Motivated researchers , Local residents

6. Hazards focused


7. Elements at risk

Human lives , Human networks in local communities , Business and livelihoods , Infrastructure , Buildings , Information and communication system , Urban areas , Rural areas , Cultural heritages , Others

Low cost housing

III. Contact Information

8. Proposer(s) information (Writer of this template)

Ingemar Sävfors
architect/urban planner

Saevfors Consulting AB
Kallangsvag 73, 18144 Lidingo, Sweden
+46 70 3936761

9. Country(ies)/region(s) where the technology/knowledge/practice originated


Padang, Sumatra

10. Names and institutions of technology/knowledge developers

Andalas University; Padang - Continued material laboratory research.
Bung Hatta University; Padang - Demo house for user oriented communication.

11. Title of relevant projects if any


12. References and publications

For technical details and reports please visit


Earth quake mitigation.pdf
Seismic Shock Absorbers from used tires.pdf
First test - Indonesia, Aug 2010.pdf

13. Note on ownership if any

Ingemar Sävfors
architect/urban planner

Saevfors Consulting AB
Kallangsvag 73, 18144 Lidingo, Sweden
+46 70 3936761

IV. Background

14. Disaster events and/or societal circumstances, which became the driving force either for developing the technology/knowledge or enhancing its practice

After the earth quake in West Sumatra September 2009 much effort has been mobilized to achieve safer construction methods, primarily for houses in bricks, the building material preferred by most people. The Government recommendations focus on reinforced concrete frames with the brick layers tied in such that the whole construction can shake as one unit whithout disintegrating. This is quite feasible if the costs can be met, but earth quakes will still endanger human lives as furniture and objects are projected during the violent shocks.


V. Description

15. Feature and attribute

If the earth quake effects could be reduced even before reaching the house foundations much human suffering and material waste could be saved. In Japan and California with top of the line seismic mitigation technology, there are sophisticated isolator devices in the foundations that provide this preventive protection.


In developing countries similar principles could be developed using local materials. The idea came up in Padang to use old car and motor cycle tires as shock absorbers. It turned out that these waste products do not have any particular value, not even in the informal sector. 

The problem of aging and cracking rubber is primarily due to the UV radiation from the sun, which could be totally avoided if buried in a foundation trench. Once built into the foundations, away from the sun, tire rubber does not lose compression strength anymore. There is neither any environmental danger as recycle industry research at Lulea Technical University, Sweden has confirmed.


16. Necessary process to implement

The “Elephant foot on tire” concept is based on low cost construction principles. Prefabricated concrete “elephant feet” connect vertically between the tires and the regular foundation beams. The handling of the tires and manufacturing of components will in addition create livelihood opportunities.


Andalas University, Civil Engineering Faculty, (see above) seeks funding for an earth quake simulation test whereby three "elephant feet" will be connected in a triangular layout by a foundation beam of reinforced concrete with a regular 20cm x 20cm section. This “tripod” construction will be loaded on a truck and driven on a bumpy road which will produce earth quake like movements. Accelerator sensors on the construction and on the truck in parallel can then measure how much shock absorption is achieved by the system.


Bung Hattta university, Architecture Department, seeks funding for building a 3m x 4m simple brick house built on elephant feet and tires, see picture below. Parts of the foundations will be left open, without back filling, to allow for observation over time. The purpose is to show and convince people that house construction on elastic rubber does not provoke tilting or cracking as commonly believed. The fact that the weight of the house is distributed equally will prevent that effect.


Both these research/development tracks are important for recognition not only in Indonesia, but by the international Disaster Risk Reduction community. NGOs alone may not have the necessary policy allowance to engage in research and become “guinea pigs” for unproven technology.


17. Strength and limitations

Compression tests were made in Sweden to investigate how much construction weight a tire can sustain and still provide the desired ductility and shock absorption effect. It turned out that even with a 2 ton weight there was still a 5-6 cm void left in a tire to allow for further impact. This remarkable strength is the same phenomenon as seen in practically all ports when a large ship hits used tires hanging on the dockside.


The most difficult hurdle may be the psychological challenge of builing a house on elastic materials. Therefore show houses at institutions will be most necessary.

18. Lessons learned through implementation if any

Used tires in SE Asia are normally of much lower quality than used winter tires in Sweden, but the vast quantities available and a strict preselection could still provide suitable components.

VI. Resources required

19. Facilities and equipments required

Training and basic concrete tools.

20. Costs, organization, manpower, etc.

Consultants for introduction, research and development, training, work flow...

VII. Message from the proposer if any

21. Message

Seismic base isolators can only be achieved with sophisticated technologies as of now. Given the increasing earth quake hazards in the fast expanding urbanized communities, mostly with higher densities, low cost mitigation techniques must be developed.

The "Elephant Foot" has now been discussed sufficiently with structural engineers to qualify for live tests and demo projects. Obviously development funds are now needed more than ever to speed up and scale up the process of introduction to users. The users are people with very limited means but highly exposed to earth quakes.



VIII. Self evaluation in relation to applicability

22. How do you evaluate the technology/knowledge that you have proposed?

It is a technology/knowledge that is shown to be effective based so far only on scientific experiments in laboratory.

23. Notes on the applicability if any

IX. Application examples

X. Other related parallel initiatives if any


XI. Remarks for version upgrade


Please look up this short movie sequence which describes the function of the Elephant foot as a base isolater:


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