In a time when weather extremes are the norm, Rensselaer civil and environmental engineers are protecting roofs from caving in under the weight of snow by advocating for building standards and studying building performance, warnings, and human behavior during a tornado.
Investigating Behavior During Tornadoes
Frank Lombardo, research assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, received The United States Department of Commerce Gold Medal for his work on the study of building performance, warnings, and human behavior in the investigation of the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado.
The medal is awarded for distinguished performance characterized by extraordinary, notable, or prestigious contributions that impact the mission of the department in the United States and throughout the world.
Lombardo’s research is focused on understanding natural hazards and their impacts by bridging the gap between the physical sciences and engineering practice. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tri-State (now Trine) University and a doctoral degree in wind science and engineering from Texas Tech University.
Before joining Rensselaer, Lombardo was a National Research Council postdoctoral research associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Preventing Roof Collapses
During the past winter, there was much concern regarding roof collapses due to snow loads. Rensselaer professor of civil and environmental engineering Michael O’Rourke has been chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers Snow and Rain Load committee since 1997, which is charged with developing snow load provisions for the nation’s building codes, and a member since 1978.
“One of the most important ways structural engineers protect people and property from snow-related collapse is via well-crafted building codes and load standards,” said O’Rourke.“The trick is to properly balance risk and cost.”
His book Snow Loads was published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 2010.
Snow drift loads are considered particularly important since, at least in the United States, they account for approximately 75 percent of all snow-related building collapses.
O’Rourke is a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer, and he is also affiliated with the university’s Center for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.