The University of Buffalo has built an earthquake simulator designed to assess the damage to non-structural components and equipment inside a shaken building. On Friday, Buffalo’s engineers subjected a fully equipped reproduction of a hospital room to some strong seismic activity from their Nonstructural Components Simulator.
“Engineers must look beyond structural issues and give thought to how building contents may shift about, suffer or cause damage or inflict injury,” said Andre Filiatrault, Ph.D., UB professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and director of SEESL. “They must also consider the economic issue of business disruption, when such systems and/or equipment fail in an earthquake. This is extremely critical in the case of hospitals.”
MCEER is especially well-suited to studying these issues, said Filiatrault, since a substantial part of its work has focused on mitigating seismic damage to hospital buildings, where nonstructural components represent more than 90 percent of an owner’s investment.
“More and more, we are seeing buildings survive earthquakes without collapse, but they still suffer business disruption due to major nonstructural damage,” Filiatrault said.
The work he and his colleagues are undertaking with the new UB Nonstructural Components Simulator is designed to keep buildings functional, especially hospitals and acute-care facilities, the services most critical to initial post-earthquake response and recovery.
“Nonstructural components are very complex and fairly difficult to model and analyze,” explained Andrei Reinhorn, Ph.D., Clifford C. Furnas Professor of Structural Engineering at UB and former SEESL director.
“We had done some testing of various nonstructural components with our existing advanced equipment but found we needed a special testing facility to accurately understand and assess them,” he said.
In part, that’s because nonstructural components inside buildings are not subjected to ground motions, but rather to the building’s motions, which are an amplified version of the ground motions.
“A roof is going to move a lot more than the ground floor,” explained Filiatrault. “Similarly, a PET scanner or an MRI machine located on the upper floor of a hospital is going to experience far more shaking than equipment on the ground floor.”
Press release: Protecting Essential Buildings and Their Contents during Earthquakes
Videos here of the Nonstructural Components Simulator in action…
(hat tip: MIT Tech Review Blog)