Strengthening walls, saving lives

April 14, 2017 by Tanya O'neil, University of North Texas
Strengthening walls, saving lives
Credit: University of North Texas

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes – it seems almost every week a deadly natural disaster is reported in the news. Now researchers at the University of North Texas are working to help create walls that will stand up to those disasters, with hopes of saving homes and lives.

"This is such a fascinating research project. It's interesting, it's practical and it really could save lives," said Xing Lan, a graduate student in UNT's College of Engineering.

Lan has been testing new shear walls the research team made out of cold-form steel to determine if they will better stand up to the extreme winds of hurricanes and tornadoes and the extreme movement caused by earthquakes."

"I have found the shear wall that we have been working on has a greater shear strength than most of the similar walls that are currently accepted in building codes," said Lan. "I recently was able to design and build a demo cold-formed steel structure by applying this new shear wall. I would say it is a good start for the exploration of the shear wall application."

Lan, a native of China, decided he needed to come to UNT when he heard about the research being done by Dr. Cheng Yu, a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology.

"In my last year as an undergraduate, I developed an interest in cold-form steel," said Lan. "It's more common in the United States than in China, so I knew I should study abroad. I started researching and quickly found out about Dr. Yu. I specifically applied to this program because of his impressive work. He is a great mentor and I am really lucky that I get to do this research."

Lan says while he has accomplished his parts with the research project, there is still work to be done.

"The next stage is about trying to get this new sheer wall certified by building codes organizations, into the construction company's hands and eventually into homes," said Lan. "The process will be tough and challenging, and I know I'm going to pass my research on to a lucky new student after I graduate in May."

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