BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In its initial public demonstration, the
world's first seismic testing apparatus for nonstructural
components performed exactly as designed last Friday at the
University at Buffalo and MCEER, providing engineers with the first
realistic, experimental method of simulating and evaluating how
earthquakes damage building equipment, contents and components.
The National Science Foundation-funded Nonstructural Components
Simulator (NCS) realistically simulated a fully equipped,
upper-story hospital room experiencing two levels of seismic
demonstration took place in the Structural Engineering and
Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL)in UB's School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences for an audience of more than 100
earthquake engineers and industry representatives from across the
U.S. who were attending the UB/MCEER symposium on "Seismic
Regulations and Challenges for Protecting Building Equipment,
Components and Operations."
"We are very pleased with the performance of the Nonstructural
Components Simulator," said Gilberto Mosqueda, Ph.D., assistant
professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering in the
UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and lead designer and
builder of the facility with Rodrigo Retamales, a doctoral student
in the same department.
"These experiments clearly demonstrate new capabilities
available at UB to test many types of nonstructural systems,
whether they are attached to walls or connected between the top and
bottom of a story in a building," he said. "We look forward to
assisting our industry partners in testing and improving the
performance of their products during earthquakes."
The NCS is the only system in the world capable of realistically
simulating how the contents and distributed systems (i.e., water,
sprinkler, medical gas piping) in important buildings, such as
hospitals, react to strong ground shaking and amplified floor
motions, said Mosqueda.
Mitigation and response to extreme events, whether natural
events like earthquakes and hurricanes, or manmade like terrorist
attacks, is a research strategic strength identified in the UB 2020
strategic plan being implemented by the university with the goal of
rising among the ranks of the nation's public research
Last week's tests were representative of a "design basis"
earthquake, which has a 10 percent probability of occurring within
the next 50 years and a "maximum considered earthquake," the
largest earthquake shaking that a building could experience in its
service life in a high-seismic zone in the U.S.
UB engineers and SEESL technicians constructed and equipped a
10-foot by 12-foot composite hospital room, outfitted with numerous
systems typical of a critical-care facility, ranging from
mechanical systems, such as sprinklers and medical gas lines, to
ceiling-mounted surgical lamps, a suspended ceiling, infusion pumps
and wall-mounted computer monitors.
"Ben," a crash dummy provided by Calspan, Inc., of Buffalo, was
seated on top of a gurney that had been secured in its stationary
position. Nonetheless, the gurney was tossed about like a toy in
both tests, while "Ben" -- 180 pounds of dead weight -- hit the
floor in the maximum event and was very severely tossed about in
the design basis quake.
During the design basis earthquake test, UB engineers were
surprised to see wall-mounted EKG monitors fall from their
pedestals, since they were mounted according to current California
standards. The maximum considered earthquake test caused a few
ceiling tiles to fall.
"These failures highlight some potential vulnerabilities that
should be further studied," said Andre Filiatrault, Ph.D.,
professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering at UB
and director of SEESL.
While he cautioned that general conclusions cannot be drawn from
these tests, which were conducted primarily to demonstrate the
capabilities of the NCS, nonetheless, he said that these unexpected
failures point to areas where engineers and manufacturers may want
to focus their joint efforts in the future.
The NCS is coming online just as a consortium of universities,
led by the University of Nevada at Reno, and including UB, has been
awarded a five-year, $3.6 million National Science Foundation NEES
Grand Challenge grant to investigate the performance of
nonstructural systems during earthquakes.
For its portion of the research, UB's Department of Civil,
Structural and Environmental Engineering will receive approximately
In addition to complementary facilities at UNR, UB's
Nonstructural Components Simulator and versatile, twin movable
shake tables will provide a test bed for these research studies to
conduct experiments to better understand and improve the seismic
performance of nonstructural systems, particularly ceilings, piping
and partition walls.
In addition to Filiatrault, Andre Reinhorn, Ph.D., Clifford C.
Furnas Professor of Structural Engineering at UB and former SEESL
director, and Andrew Whittaker, Ph.D., professor of civil,
structural and environmental engineering will be leading the UB
The testing platforms of the NCS were designed and constructed
by UB engineers and SEESL staff; the hydraulic actuators that drive
the system were manufactured by MTS Systems Corporation.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue
their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate,
graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the
University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American