New building design withstands earthquake simulation (Video)

Feb 26, 2009
Engineers constructed a four-story, 40-percent replica of a building in a laboratory to test their new technique for bracing high rise buildings in earthquake zones. They simulated an earthquake by pushing and pulling the building with hydraulics. Image: Remy Lequesne

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated an off-the-charts earthquake in a laboratory to test their new technique for bracing high-rise concrete buildings. Their technique passed the test, withstanding more movement than an earthquake would typically demand.

The engineers used steel fiber-reinforced concrete to develop a better kind of coupling beam that requires less reinforcement and is easier to construct. Coupling beams connect the walls of high rises around openings such as those for doorways, windows, and elevator shafts. These necessary openings can weaken walls.

"We simulated an earthquake that is beyond the range of the maximum credible earthquake and our test was very successful. Our fiber-reinforced concrete beams behaved as well as we expected they would, which is better than the beams in use today," said James Wight, the Frank E. Richart Jr. Collegiate Professor in the U-M Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Engineers at the University of Michigan simulated an off-the-charts earthquake in a laboratory in December to test the strength of their new technique for bracing high-rise buildings.

Working with Wight on this project are Gustavo Parra-Montesinos, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Remy Lequesne, a doctoral student in the same department.

Today, coupling beams are difficult to install and require intricate reinforcing bar skeletons. The U-M engineers created a simpler version made of a highly flowable, steel fiber-reinforced concrete.

"We took quite a bit of the cumbersome reinforcement out of the design and replaced it with steel fibers that can be added to the concrete while it's being mixed," Parra-Montesinos said. "Builders could use this fiber-reinforced concrete to build coupling beams that don't require as much reinforcement."

The engineers envision that their brand of beam would be cast off the construction site and then delivered. Nowadays, builders construct the beams, steel skeletons and all, bit by bit as they're building skyscrapers.

Their fiber-reinforced concrete has other benefits as well.

"The cracks that do occur are narrower because the fibers hold them together," Parra-Montesinos said.

The fibers are about one inch long and about the width of a needle.

The engineers performed their test in December on a 40-percent replica of a 4-story building wall that they built in the Structures Laboratory. They applied a peak load of 300,000 pounds against the building, pushing and pulling it with hydraulic actuators.

To quantify the results, they measured the building's drift, which is the motion at the top of the building compared with the motion at the base. In a large earthquake, a building might sustain a drift of 1 to 2 percent. The U-M structure easily withstood a drift of 3 percent.

The new beams could provide an easier, cheaper, stronger way to brace buildings in earthquake-prone areas.

The researchers are now working with a structural design firm to install the beams in several high rises soon to be under construction on the west coast.

Provided by University of Michigan

Explore further: Comfortable climate indoors with porous glass

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Tesla says decision on battery factory months away

6 hours ago

(AP)—Electric car maker Tesla Motors said Thursday that it is preparing a site near Reno, Nevada, as a possible location for its new battery factory, but is still evaluating other sites.

Comfortable climate indoors with porous glass

Jul 31, 2014

Proper humidity and temperature play a key role in indoor climate. In the future, establishing a comfortable indoor environment may rely on porous glass incorporated into plaster, as this regulates moisture ...

Crash-testing rivets

Jul 31, 2014

Rivets have to reliably hold the chassis of an automobile together – even if there is a crash. Previously, it was difficult to predict with great precision how much load they could tolerate. A more advanced ...

Customized surface inspection

Jul 31, 2014

The quality control of component surfaces is a complex undertaking. Researchers have engineered a high-precision modular inspection system that can be adapted on a customer-specific basis and integrated into ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

WolfAtTheDoor
not rated yet Feb 26, 2009
That's great, but it's kind of a small building.