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Framing for Earthquakes

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Earthquakes, unfortunately, have been top of mind recently. We saw the devastation that hit Japan last week and the subsequent fallout. In only the last year and a half, earthquakes hit Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and even Guy, Arkansas.

What can we do to further protect ourselves?

Ninety-two-year-old Bernard Jacovitz, a South Florida-based inventor, custom home builder and home inspector with over 50 years experience and dual degrees in architectural and industrial design has just received patent approval of his design for a completely new approach for home construction framing that he says will minimize and virtually eliminate the risks to the home associated with major earthquakes.

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I interviewed Bernard to find out more about what inspired, steel framing and the difficulty of attaining a patent.

What was the basis for developing this framing system? What are some of the advantages you see in steel framing?

This framing system was developed to make one and two-family homes safe in the event of an earthquake. The devastation in Haiti deeply troubled me and I spent a great deal of time thinking about a new approach to home construction that would severly minimize the risk to homes from earthquakes. At the time of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, all standard construction for homes was either masonry or exterior walls, floors and ceilings. The material in these forms of construction was naturally rigid. My JacBlox Framing System [owned by Earthquake Resistant Building Construction Inc.] for the exterior walls, floors and ceilings is made of 8-inch round galvanized corrugated metal, 8-foot long adjacent to one another. This design technique is resilient and will move when an earthquake occurs, allowing for continued integrity of the building. The JacBlox Framing System will not crack or break apart. The use of the steel framing allows for flexibility with increased overall strength.

What was the process like receiving a patent on this product? How long did it take? Was it difficult?

The process for receiving the patent was extremely arduous and seemed to take forever. There was a great deal of back and forth with my attorney and then with the patent office itself. I have received a patent in the past and the process has not gotten any better, just more expensive and time-consuming, particularly for a small inventor such as myself. The one advantage I had for this patent was my age. I am currently 92 years of age. The patent office does provide, what they consider, an expedited process for older inventors. Overall the cost of the patent attorney, the patent fees, and the answers and search for conflicting patents are most difficult and take enormous time and cost.

What types of applications do you see being most common for this framing system?

The JacBlox Framing System is only good for one and two family homes, one and two stories high. In addition to increased strength and flexibility from my new framing system, homes using this design technique will automatically be far more energy efficient. Ecologically safe foam insulation can be blown into all the pipes and small dead spaces, making the home incredibly energy efficient. Through the use of the JacBlox Framing System, homes will have a far easier time getting LEED certification and will certainly be more sustainable.

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