University receives $3.6 million for seismic study

9/5/2007 | By: Staff Report  |

The National Science Foundation has awarded the College of Engineering a $3.6 million Grand Challenge grant to study the seismic performance of nonstructural systems.

Nonstructural systems represent approximately 75 percent of the value of typical buildings that are exposed to earthquakes in the U.S. Among the various nonstructural systems, ceiling-piping-partition systems are widely used in many types of buildings and represent a major portion of nonstructural earthquake vulnerability, according to the project director, E. "Manos" Maragakis, who is also a professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering at the University.

"This Grand Challenge project will integrate multidisciplinary, system-level studies for the first time to develop a simulation capability and implementation process for enhancing the seismic performance of the ceiling-piping-partition system," Maragakis said. "We'll develop an innovative test-bed structure that will be 64 feet long, 26 feet high and 14 feet wide.  Then, we'll place it on the three shake tables in the Rogers and Weiner Large Scales Structures Laboratory."

Maragakis and the team of researchers will suspend a variety of ceiling-piping-partition systems that will be subjected to conditions simulating high intensity earthquakes.  University researchers include Ahmad Itani and Gokhan Pekcan from civil and environmental engineering and Jacque Ewing-Taylor from the College of Education.

"Ceiling-piping-partition systems consist of several components and subsystems, have complex three-dimensional geometries, and are spread over large areas in all directions," Maragakis said. "Their seismic response, their interaction with the structural system they are suspended from or attached to, and their failure mechanisms are not well understood, and yet they are critical to the safety of the majority of our buildings here in the U.S."

The project is entitled "Simulation of the Seismic Performance of Nonstructural Systems."  It was awarded after a nationwide competition among universities to conduct a Grand Challenge project in the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) research program of the National Science Foundation.  The project will extend for five years.

The University at Buffalo NEES Equipment Site will also be used to conduct full-scale experiments.  Other participating researchers are from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California, San Diego, the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE), Cornell, North Caroline State University, A&T University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Several industrial and international partners will participate in various phases of the project

The project also includes an integrated education, outreach, dissemination and implementation program including involvement in project research tasks of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups and programs. The University will also organize and run "The Exploring Engineering Summer Camp" at the Raggio Research Center for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. This activity will involve the participation of underrepresented groups among Nevada high school students.


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