BUFFALO, N.Y. -- To get a better idea of just how much damage
even a moderate earthquake would cause to unreinforced masonry
buildings, earthquake-engineering researchers in the University at
Buffalo's MCEER are reconstructing brick walls like those in New
York City buildings that are approximately 100 years old.
"We are trying to understand how the buildings will behave
during earthquakes," says Gilberto Mosqueda, PhD, an associate
professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering at UB,
and principal investigator on the project funded by UB's MCEER
(Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research). "In
a lot of cases, due to the age of the buildings, the mortar that
holds the bricks together is disintegrating. And the mortar is all
that's holding them together, making them very vulnerable, even
under moderate earthquakes like the one we experienced this
Using bricks retrieved from New York City buildings slated for
demolition, as well as data from testing of existing buildings, the
researchers have recreated the type of mortar representative of
what is there today: a particularly weak type of mortar that uses
less cement and more sand, Mosqueda says.
The researchers will use the mortar to build pieces of brick
walls, which they will then subject to simulated earthquakes using
UB's state-of-the-art shake tables.
The goal is to better understand how these buildings will behave
when subjected to earthquake loads, so that new technologies can be
developed which could best, and most quickly, address such
"Strengthening buildings so they can better withstand ground
motions from earthquakes would also make them better able to
perform in high winds during hurricanes," Mosqueda says.
Even without extreme events -- such as this week's earthquake
and Hurricane Irene, which is predicted to hit New York and other
eastern cities this weekend -- century-old brick buildings
throughout the U.S. are showing their age, Mosqueda says. This
makes the work of UB's MCEER that much more relevant.
"Some older, unreinforced masonry buildings in New York City are
collapsing just due to their own weight or fires," he says.
"Finding out how they behave during earthquake loads -- in order to
develop retrofit technologies to make them stronger -- would
improve their performance in all sorts of hazards, such as high
winds and during heavy snowfall, too."
Founded in 1986, MCEER, headquartered at the University at
Buffalo, is a national center of excellence in advanced technology
applications dedicated to reducing losses from earthquakes and
other hazards, and to improving disaster resilience. One of three
such centers in the nation established by the National Science
Foundation, MCEER has been funded principally over the past two
decades with more than $67 million from NSF, more than $47 million
from the State of New York and more than $34 million from the
Federal Highway Administration. Additional support comes from the
Federal Emergency Management Agency, other state governments,
academic institutions, foreign governments and private
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. 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 Universities.