University News

November’s seismic shake has historic reverberations

Engineering students

(From left): Undergraduate engineering student Charles Ekiert, lead investigator Andre Filiatrault and postdoctoral associate Assawin Wanitkorkul survey preparations for seismic test.

Most simulated earthquake tests feature neither full-scale structures nor ground motions in three directions, but the seismic test of a wood-frame townhouse conducted November 14 in UB’s Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory featured both.

For 15 seconds, the two-story, wood-frame townhouse similar to those found in southern California and constructed on the laboratory’s twin shake tables was exposed to a magnitude 6.7 earthquake like the Northridge quake that struck the Los Angeles area in 1994. The ground motions in three directions created by the shake tables were similar to those recorded less than four miles from the Northridge earthquake’s epicenter.

The three-bedroom townhouse shook violently, but did not collapse. Remote cameras located inside various rooms showed contents falling off desks and shelves. Large cracks were created in the structure on each corner of the frame above the garage door. The video shows what happens to the kitchen once the shaking starts, and later moves to action in one of the bedrooms.

“The test will demonstrate in a dramatic way how much damage can occur during an earthquake if homeowners don’t take the proper precautions,” Andre Filiatrault, professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and lead investigator, said before the testing.

To see the experiment, go to, scroll down to “Archived Test Videos from our cameras” and click on video stream for “Outside Composite View.