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Shake, rattle and possibly roll. This may be on the minds of a team of young engineers from Tufts University who are assessing just how buildings made with reinforced concrete frames and masonry infill walls hold up during an earthquake. They will attempt to shake a building in El Centro, CA until it is on the verge of collapse.
California is an earthquake-prone state. However, the test and its subsequent results will be used to refine analytical models engineers currently use to evaluate seismic safety of similarly constructed buildings built according to outdated codes, no matter where they are located. In this instance, the building that has been selected for the research has been severely damaged from previous earthquakes and has been marked for demolishing.
The building these engineers have selected was never retrofitted, for example, with carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP). CFRP systems such as the structural strengthening systems developed by HJ3 Composite Technologies are able to seismically retrofit residential, civil, commercial and industrial structures.
When concrete, steel, masonry or wood structures are wrapped in carbon fiber, the high-tensile strength of the material withstands live loads generated on the substrate from the seismic forces. Structures can be retrofitted for changes in seismic codes, regardless of whether an earthquake has or has not yet occurred.
Tufts University Engineering Students Shake Building
 West Commercial Avenue building in El Centro, CA. (Credit: Babak Moaveni, Tufts University)
 HJ3’s Civil composite system is used to strengthen this manufacturing facility per required seismic upgrades
In the first phase of their project, the Tuft University engineers will record the building’s existing condition. Next, a spinning devise called an “eccentric-mass shaker” will be installed on the building’s roof. The top-down shaking that will occur will simulate the pulsing and vibrations of an actual earthquake. Computers will then record data from sensors located throughout the building.
Thousands of buildings in earthquake-prone zones such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, other northwestern United States, New Zealand, the Mediterranean, and Latin America are vulnerable if they have not been retrofit to meet current seismic codes. Not only could they benefit from this study, but they could also benefit from quickly installed, lightweight, high-strength solutions such as HJ3’s structural strengthening systems.


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