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Producing Affordable Earthquake Desks

Locally made Earthquake Desks are affordable, withstand heavy loads, and provide safer cover in schools that are not yet earthquake resistant.


In Bhutan, the many schools made of unreinforced stone masonry, or other brittle material, are likely to collapse in a big earthquake. Until these buildings are upgraded, children need protection from heavy debris that will fall during shaking. 

For conditions like this, we introduced the award-winning* Earthquake Desk to Bhutan's Ministry of Education. Different from a standard school desk, the Earthquake Desk can withstand heavy loads and shelter two children. 

The desk's strength comes from a unique combination of structure and materials. But the innovation doesn't stop there--we're showing Bhutanese manufacturers how to mass produce Earthquake Desks. Local production will keep the cost low, so more classrooms can be equipped. As a side benefit, the manufacturers are building new skills. 

Arthur Brutter and Ido Bruno, who designed the desk, led intensive training with carpenters and welders. The team used jigs, a new concept in Bhutan, to align pieces for welding the same section repeatedly with little error. Engineers in Bhutan’s School Planning and Building Division studied the process for their role in quality assurance. (Link to Ido's journal, below, for his story of "collaboration at its best.") 

A dramatic "crush" test capped the prototype training. A 422 kg weight was dropped on one of the Earthquake Desks, which survived handily. In comparison, a one of the standard school desks was flattened under a lesser weight. 

Phase 2 is currently underway. Manufacturers will produce a larger supply of Earthquake Desks, and the Ministry of Education will develop a phased plan to equip schools most at risk. Scientists from AIR Worldwide, a Verisk Analytics company, are assisting with analyses for this task. 

The combination of earthquakes and poorly-built schools poses a lethal threat to millions of children worldwide. We plan to introduce Earthquake Desks, and options for safer cover, to more countries.


This Desk is a Star! 

Designed by Arthur Brutter and Ido Bruno of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. 

Significant Awards and exhibitions (partial): 

  • Red Dot Design Award 2014. 

  • Permanent collection of the MOMA in New York. 

  • Exhibited in "Applied Design" at the MOMA 2013-2014.

  • Exhibited in "Design of the Year 2012" at the London Design Museum. 

  • Runner-up in "Social Impact" category of the CORE77 prize for 2012. 

  • The Icon Magazine Product of the Year Design Award.


Ido Bruno's JOURNAL

Earthquake Desk Bhutan PHOTOS

Retooling the Standard School Desk


AIR Worldwide, a Verisk Analytics company, provided funding and data support for this project.

Avner Shachar, CEO of AD Meraz, gave use of the design patent as a gift to the people of Bhutan.

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