Researchers Test Earthquake and Fire Readiness in Five-Story Building

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers and engineers from UC San Diego, Worchester Polytechnic Institute, and Howard University will be placing an equipped five-story, 80-foot building on an outdoor seismic shake table to find out the impact of earthquakes and fires on the structure. The tests will be conducted for two weeks at the Englekirk Structural Engineering Center.

The building will include an elevator, air conditioning, piping, a surgery suite, an intensive care unit, computer servers, fire barriers, and a water tower. The impact of the simulated temblors on the building and the nonstructural components will be measured using 500 sensors including 230 accelerometers, GPS devices and 50 strain gauges. Approximately 80 cameras will be used for recording the movement.

The study aims to find out the requirements for ensuring the continued operation of critical buildings such as data centers and hospitals after such events. The test focuses on the possible malfunctioning of critical equipment, including computer servers, electrical wiring and equipment, laboratory equipment, ceiling systems, active and passive fire protection systems, and air conditioning systems.

The base isolation system isolates the building from other movements. This system consists of large cylindrical rubber bearings and these will be removed in the latter part of the testing period.

The testing will consist of simulated temblors, which will include motions of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the 2002 Alaska 7.9-magnitude earthquake, the 2007, Peru 8.0-magnitude earthquake, and the 2010 Chile 8.8-magnitude earthquake.

After the seismic testing, fire testing, which will consist of igniting heptane liquid fuel, will be performed. Sensors will record the movement of smoke and temperature, and an assessment of the damage to the fire protection systems will be made. This study will help in designing safer buildings and equipment.


Joel Scanlon

Written by

Joel Scanlon

Joel, originally from the UK, emigrated to Australia in 1995 and spent 5 years working in the mining industry as an exploration Geo-technician where he developed skills in GIS Mapping and CAD. Joel also spent a year working underground in a gold/copper mine. Upon moving to the North Coast of NSW, Australia Joel worked as a graphic designer for a leading consultancy firm before starting a successful business providing graphic and web design services to local businesses on the eastern seaboard of Australia. Joel is skilled in project management, web programming, design, animation, database and networking, software and editing. Joel has been with AZoNetwork since its inception in 2000.


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