Colorado State University Professor Investigates Design of Taller, Earthquake-Proof Buildings

Note to Editors: At 2:30 p.m., Friday, July 22, Colorado State University Professor John van de Lindt will simulate the effects of a major earthquake on a 160-square-foot, one-story building built on a “shake table” in the structures laboratory at Colorado State’s Engineering Research Center. Please call Emily Narvaes Wilmsen to arrange an interview or a photo

A Colorado State University civil engineering professor has received a four-year, $1.24 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new design approach for taller woodframe buildings in earthquake-prone areas.

The tests – to be conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo and in Miki City (near Kobe), Japan, starting in October – ultimately could help the woodframe industry safely increase the height of woodframe construction to six, possibly even seven, stories in active seismic zones, said John van de Lindt,  associate professor at Colorado State.

"The research will address the seismic performance of woodframe structures in the United States, which comprises the vast  percentage of the building inventory," he said.

Van de Lindt’s research, in cooperation with the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, would test seismic activity on four- to six-story buildings at several large "shake tables" that are part of the network around the world.

Van de Lindt will lead a team of researchers who will develop a new design philosophy culminating in the construction of an apartment building in Japan. The test in Japan will enable researchers to confirm that the new design approach meets expectations. The shake table in Japan is the largest in the world; researchers using the Colorado State University shake table will test smaller structures and portions of the structures in preparation for the "capstone" test in Japan.

Recent research by Van de Lindt has focused on testing how seismic activity affects low-rise or one- to three-story woodframe structures. His latest test on Friday, July 22, will simulate an earthquake so powerful that it only has a 2 percent chance of occurring in the Los Angeles area once every 50 years. Assisting him are Hongyan Liu and Shiling Pei, both doctoral students in the Department of Civil Engineering.  Their research is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a recent $385,000 grant and by Colorado State.

Van de Lindt joined Colorado State in July 2004. Previously, he worked as an assistant professor at Michigan Technological University. He obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University in 1995, and 1999, respectively.

Van de Lindt also recently received a National Science Foundation grant for $590,000 to work with Professor Bogusz Bienkiewicz, a wind engineering professor in Colorado State’s civil engineering department. Bienkiewicz will lead that project, which will connect a state-of-the-art wind tunnel with a large structural load frame to simulate the effect of wind on structures.  This connection will be in "real time" over the Internet 2 backbone – a faster Internet used primarily for research purposes.

The National Science Foundation estimates more than 75 million U.S. citizens in 39 states live in areas at risk for earthquake devastation. The organization created the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, connecting fifteen large-scale, experimental sites that feature shake tables, centrifuges that simulate earthquake effects and a tsunami wave basin.