Wood-Frame House Ready for 6.7 Magnitude Quake

Event in UB earthquake simulation lab attracting world-wide attention

Release Date: November 9, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The seismic tests that are conducted regularly inside the cavernous state-of-the-art Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) in Ketter Hall on the University at Buffalo North (Amherst) Campus generally are viewed by a select few: the structural engineers, technicians and students who are integral to UB's world-renowned program in earthquake engineering.

But on Nov. 14, it will be standing room only throughout the viewing areas in the vast, 25,000-square-foot space.

That's because at approximately 11:30 a.m., the furnished, three-bedroom, two-bath, wood-frame townhouse that has been constructed on top of the laboratory's state-of-the-art twin shake tables will undergo the most violent shaking possible in a laboratory -- mimicking the violent, magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake of 1994.

Members of the UB community, as well as local residents, school students and observers from around the world, will be able to watch the shaking in real-time at http://nees.buffalo.edu/projects/NEESWood/video.asp and at http://www.buffalo.edu/yourub.

"We are pleased to host this earthquake test, the largest ever conducted worldwide on a wood building, and one that is important to the life and safety of many people," said Harvey Stenger, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "We are grateful to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its support and we are very pleased to be a member of the NEES consortium, which includes many outstanding UB faculty, led by Professors Andre Filiatrault and Andrei Reinhorn."

Film crews, newspaper and magazine reporters, radio producers and journalists from national and international wire services are flying in from New York, Washington, D.C., and London to watch and record the unprecedented event.

Major television networks, including CNN, plan to broadcast the test and national and international publications, wire services and National Public Radio plan to cover the event, as do Western New York broadcast and print media.

Crews from overseas are coming to Buffalo to film the test for segments in upcoming documentary films.

The dramatic seismic test is expected to be broadcast that day on major television networks, and stories are expected to appear in national and international publications.

"The NEESWood event is an exciting moment in our department's history," said A. Scott Weber, professor and chair of the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. "It highlights to the world the scholarship and contributions that our students, faculty and staff routinely make to the practice of engineering."

Andre Filiatrault, professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and UB's lead investigator on the project, added: "This final test of the first year of the NEESWood project is a fitting end to this phase of the project, covering the whole spectrum -- from scientific discovery to public education."

The test is part of a four-year, $1.24 million international project called NEESWood funded by the NSF's George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES).

The townhouse, which will be "furnished" down to a car in the garage and dishes on the kitchen table, is expected to suffer significant damage, according to computer simulations performed by the UB researchers and colleagues at other NEESWood institutions.

During the test, 250 sensors installed inside the house will gather detailed information about how each component of the building behaves during the simulated earthquake. A dozen video cameras -- eight inside and four outside -- will record the shaking as it happens.

The NEESWood research is based on the premise that if more is known about how wood structures react to earthquakes, then larger and taller wood structures can be built in seismic regions worldwide, providing economic, engineering and societal benefits.

Construction on the house and previous seismic tests were done by a dedicated group of UB faculty, staff and students with important contributions from colleagues at the other NEESWood institutions, including Colorado State University, Cornell University, Texas A&M University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Local and national companies also donated time, materials and expertise, and a crew of construction technology students from Erie Community College spent several weeks on the job in Ketter Hall.

The UB tests are the first step in moving toward performance-based seismic 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.

"The results from this benchmark test at UB probably will change the way we model wood-frame structures," said John van de Lindt, principal investigator of NEESWood and associate professor of civil engineering at Colorado State University.

Led by Filiatrault, the UB testing also was conducted by Assawin Wanitkorkul, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, and Jianis Christovasilis, a graduate student in the department. Several undergraduate students, including UB's American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student chapter, also participated. Hirochi Isoda of Shinshu University in Japan and Bryan Folz of Canada's British Columbia Institute of Technology, participated in the research at UB during the summer.

UB staff members at SEESL/UB-NEES who have worked on the project include Goran Josipovic, information technologies specialist; Jason Hanley, information technologies service manager; Thomas Albrechcinski, NEES site operations manager; Carmella Gosden, administrative assistant; Mark Pitman, technical services manager; Christopher Budden, Scot Weinreber and Chris Zwierlein, electronic/instrumentation specialists; Duane Kozlowski, field safety officer; and Robert Staniszewski, welding and steel construction specialist.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.

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