While many people believe that earthquakes mainly happen in California, there is also significant seismic risk in the Midwest and Eastern United States, said Benson Shing, a UC San Diego structural engineering professor who is leading the project.
"We have low probability, high consequence events in those parts of the countries, so the performance of reinforced masonry structures in earthquakes is very important," Shing
said these types of structures demonstrated good performance in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
The structure being tested has been designed according to the latest building code requirements.
In theory, Shing
said, it should perform even better than those built before Northridge.
However, neither current nor pre-Northridge designs have been tested in an extraordinarily strong earthquake or with a large scale shake table test like this one.
"The building design code has been changing over the years," Shing
In the second phase of the project, Shing
colleagues will test, in early 2012, a two-story, low-rise masonry structure with smaller window openings.
"This type of building is difficult to analyze so it presents a major challenge in design," Shing
"You can't reliably assess the performance of these structures with analytical methods normally used by engineers.
Hopefully we can use our data to develop better design methodologies and analytical tools."
While life safety is high on the list for protecting these structures from severe earthquake damage or collapse, economics is also an important consideration.
said it's critical to minimize the life cycle cost of the buildings by avoiding costly repairs after major earthquakes.
"Civil structures are very different from airplane structures," Shing