BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Just weeks after the University at Buffalo and
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute successfully conducted the first
tests of seismic dampers for residential applications, the firm
that manufactures the dampers, Taylor Devices, has made its first
sale of the protective devices for a residence.
By the end of the year, a dozen of the devices, manufactured in
North Tonawanda, N.Y., will be installed in a major, $35-million
luxury residence in southern California.
Completed in early July, the damper tests were part of NEESWood,
a four-year, $1.24 million National Science Foundation-funded
consortium project. NEESWood researchers are using data from the
tests to further improve performance for wood-frame construction.
The goal of NEESWood is to develop a better understanding of how
wooden structures react to earthquakes, so that larger and taller
structures can be built safely in seismic regions worldwide.
Because of its sheer size -- the master bedroom alone is 3,000
square feet -- the frame of the luxury home where the dampers will
be installed is being built of steel, not wood. But, according to
Douglas P. Taylor, chief executive officer of Taylor Devices and a
UB alumnus, the lessons learned during the tests are
"NEESWood is demonstrating that what works to mitigate seismic
damage in other projects can also work for residences," he
Taylor Devices seismic dampers have been installed in more than
200 commercial buildings and bridges worldwide; this sale marks the
company's entry into the residential market.
"Our work with UB and RPI on NEESWood has introduced us to a new
market sector," Taylor added. "It's making the public aware that
this technology can be used in residences as well."
"It's very exciting and rewarding to see the research results
generated in the NEESWood project being implemented so quickly,"
said Andre Filiatrault, Ph.D., UB professor of civil, structural
and environmental engineering and the leader of the NEESWood
experiments at UB.
At an estimated cost of $50,000 including installation, the
$35-million California project will utilize a dozen seismic
dampers, which are designed to be installed within a home's
perimeter wall. After the walls are sheathed in plywood and gypsum,
the dampers are invisible.
Each silicon-fluid-filled damper, measuring approximately 20
inches long and 3.5 inches in diameter, can dissipate about 10,000
pounds of force. The dampers take the energy of the earthquake and
convert it into heat, removing it from the structure. The heat then
dissipates into the atmosphere.
In early July, under the supervision of Michael Symans, Ph.D.,
associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at RPI
in Troy, N.Y., a 73,000-lb., 1,800-square foot townhouse equipped
with four seismic dampers was subjected to a simulation of a
magnitude 6.7 earthquake on UB's twin shake tables.
Those tests confirmed that the dampers were able to dissipate a
portion of the energy from the simulated earthquake ground motions,
thus reducing the energy that needed to be dissipated by the wood
"The reduced energy dissipation demand on the wood framing
system indicates that the damage in wood buildings subjected to
earthquakes could be reduced significantly by incorporating
dampers," said Symans. "The full-scale tests at UB were very
helpful in understanding how the dampers likely would perform in a
field application. It is very gratifying to see that the testing at
UB, along with prior prototype testing at RPI, has led to an
application of dampers in a residential structure."
"We are very fortunate to have industry partners like Taylor
Devices participating within the NEESWood project," said John W.
van de Lindt, Ph.D., NEESWood project director and associate
professor at Colorado State University. "Many engineering fields,
including earthquake engineering, now are being evaluated based on
the impact of new discoveries to industry and society as a
The UB testing concludes in November, when the furnished,
three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse will be subjected to the most
violent shaking possible in a laboratory -- mimicking what an
earthquake that occurs only once every 2,500 years would
The tests are the first step in moving toward performance-based
design for wood-frame structures. NEESWood will culminate with the
validation of new design processes using a six-story, wood-frame
structure that will be tested on the world's largest shake table in
Miki City, Japan, early in 2009.
NEESWood is a collaborative research project led by van de Lindt
at Colorado State University. Co-principal investigators are Rachel
Davidson, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil and environmental
engineering at Cornell University; Filiatrault of UB; David V.
Rosowsky, Ph.D., professor and head of the department of civil
engineering at Texas A&M University, and Symans at RPI.
The NEESWood project is supported by the National Science
Foundation under Grant No. CMS-0529903 (NEES Research) and
CMS-0402490 (NEES Operations).
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York.