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Earthquake Engineering Can Protect Against Hurricanes

Release Date: September 1, 2005

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Michel Bruneau
Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
Director Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER)
University at Buffalo
716-645-3391, ext. 104
bruneau@buffalo.edu

Stuart S. Chen, Ph.D., PE
Associate Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
University at Buffalo
716-645-2114, ext. 2428

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The civil engineering expertise developed to address other natural disasters such as earthquakes may also be relevant to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, according to Michel Bruneau, Ph.D., UB professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and director of the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), and Stuart S. Chen, Ph.D., P.E., associate professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and MCEER investigator.

Bruneau is sending a team of UB researchers to some of the cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina, such as Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi to determine specific causes behind the failures of large engineered structures, primarily commercial buildings. (Full story.)

"Our engineers want to look at the damage Katrina caused from a multi-hazard perspective," says Michel Bruneau. He notes that the building codes in some jurisdictions fail to adopt design requirements that protect structures against extreme events, like severe earthquakes or a Category 4 or 5 hurricanes.

According to Chen, the multi-span bridge on U.S. 90 leading into Biloxi that failed as a result of Katrina may not have sustained as much damage if it had been retrofitted with a "seismic restrainer" to protect against earthquake damage. "If the bridge had been retrofitted to make it better withstand earthquake damage, by tying the spans of the bridge to each other and to the piers, this could have prevented the bridge spans from ending up in the water," he says.

"Building codes don't currently require engineers to design buildings to protect against multiple hazards," he notes, "but the case of this bridge is a classic case where if you address one hazard, earthquakes, you would in this case get some fringe benefits by protecting against other hazards -- floods and hurricanes -- for no additional, incremental dollars."

Michel Bruneau
Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
Director Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER)
University at Buffalo
716-645-3391, ext. 104
bruneau@buffalo.edu
http://www.eng.buffalo.edu/~bruneau

Stuart S. Chen, Ph.D., PE
Associate Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
University at Buffalo
716-645-2114, ext. 2428
http://www.civil.buffalo.edu/professors_chen.shtml

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dellacon@buffalo.edu
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