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Seismic safety of light-frame steel construction being tested

June 13, 2013 at 2:14 PM   |   Comments

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 13 (UPI) -- The final phase of a three-year project to increase seismic safety of buildings using light-frame steel construction is under way, a U.S. university said.

Funded by a grant from the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, earthquake engineering researchers from U.S. and Canadian universities partnering with steel industry design professionals already developed a series of computational models to determine how a complete building structure will perform during an earthquake, Purdue University said Thursday in a release.

Based at Purdue's Discovery Park, NEES is a collaborative, 14-site research initiative seeking ways to improve structural seismic design and reduce the damage of earthquakes and tsunamis, university officials said. It is funded by a $105 million National Science Foundation grant.

Analysis and initial testing for the project began in late 2010 at Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Texas. The focus shifts now to the University of Buffalo, where construction of a two-story test building was recently completed. Full-scale shake-table testing is expected to begin in the summer.

"This project has already resulted in several innovations that will immediately impact seismic cold-formed steel design standards, making buildings safer," said research team lead Benjamin Schafer of the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. "Now comes the fun part -- getting to see how all the research plays out on the shake table."

One key deliverable from the project will be the transfer of research results into an open-source software framework, Schafer said. The data will be made available to engineers, allowing them to see how their structural system designs will respond to an earthquake before construction.

"This software will create cost efficiencies and potentially save lives," Schafer said.

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