July 10, 2009

Researchers to simulate massive quake

The largest earthquake simulation ever performed on a wood building could yield data on how to protect homes and apartments, U.S. and Japanese engineers said.

Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y., are to participate in the July 14 simulation, to be shown live from Miki, Japan, in a webcast at www.nsf.gov/neeswood, the school said in a release.

The researchers have put a seven-story wood building on the world's largest shake table, used to test the resistance of structures to shaking, and plan to expose it to the force of an earthquake so strong it might occur just once every 2,500 years, Rensselaer Professor Michael Symans said.

Results from sensing equipment and cameras should yield data that will allow researchers to develop computer models of mid-rise wood buildings, Symans said.

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, he said.