Inside Rensselaer
* Researchers Participate in Seismic Test of Seven-Story Building
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Rensselaer Associate Professor Michael Symans and Dean of Engineering David Rosowsky were among the team of researchers in Japan who performed the largest earthquake simulation ever attempted on a wooden structure. The multi-university team placed this seven-story building on the world’s largest shake table and exposed it to the force of an earthquake that hits once every 2,500 years. Photo Credit: Colorado State University
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Supercomputing: Celebrating the CCNI
A destructive earthquake struck a lone, wooden condominium in Japan in July, and Rensselaer Professor Michael Symans was on site to watch it happen.

Symans was among the team of researchers who converged in the Japanese city of Miki to perform the largest earthquake simulation ever attempted on a wooden structure. The multi-university team, led by Colorado State University, placed a seven-story building — loaded with sensing equipment and video cameras — on a massive shake table, and exposed the building to the force of an earthquake that hits once every 2,500 years.

“Right now, wood can’t compete with steel and concrete as building materials for mid-rise buildings, partly because we don’t have a good understanding of how taller wood-framed structures will perform in a strong earthquake,” said Symans, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “With this shaking table test, we’ll be collecting data that will help us to further the development of design approaches for such structures, which is one of the major goals of the project.”

The 1994 magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Northridge, Calif., and 1995 magnitude 6.9 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, clearly demonstrate the seismic vulnerability of wood-framed construction, Symans said. The shake table experiment in July offered researchers a chance to better understand how wood reacts in an earthquake, he said, and the resulting data could lead to the advancement of engineering techniques for mitigating earthquake damage.

The seven-story test structure was built with new seismic design methods informed by NEESWood, the four-year NEESWood project led by Colorado State University and supported by the NSF Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) Program. The tests in Miki, performed at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center, home of the world’s largest seismic shaking table, were be used to evaluate the performance of the building and, in turn, many new NEEWWood design methods.

David Rosowsky, who recently joined Rensselaer as dean of the School of Engineering, is also a co-investigator of the NEESWood project and attended the shake table experiment in Miki.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 7, August 28, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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