Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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Earthquake simulator shows how masonry buildings react

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Buffalo: Earthquake simulator shows how masonry buildings react
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Researchers at the University at Buffalo have conducted a large-scale earthquake simulation to learn how century-old buildings react. YNN's Antoinette DelBel has more on why these tests are important to the East Coast.

AMHERST, N.Y. — An earthquake simulator mimics a massive earthquake that shook Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011.

Another test replicates a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Virginia that same year - one of the largest to ever hit the East Coast.

"The point of these tests is to learn exactly at what point these buildings begin to fail - at what intensity level," said Gilberto Mosqueda, a UB research associate professor.

Engineering students and researchers from UB performed a series of ground-shaking tests Tuesday to a slice of a building you would find in New York City, often called brownstones.

The two 14-foot-tall walls were built with century-old brick and a special type of mortar to replicate brownstones. One has a support system; the other does not.

It's a project Ph.D. Engineering student Juan Aleman has been working on for four years.

"New York City, 80 percent of the building stock is masonry buildings,” said Aleman. “Right now, that they have a seismic code, they want to analyze the buildings and see if these buildings will be able to sustain an earthquake."

UB research assistant Maikol Del Carpio agreed.

"Although there's a lot of buildings like this, there's no experimental data that have validated the integrity of the structural system," he said.

Aleman says although earthquakes in the Big Apple with a five or greater magnitude are uncommon, it can happen. And researchers say with a large population living in older, unreinforced masonry buildings, even a moderate quake could be deadly.

"The parapet basically fractured and it fell forward," said Del Carpio. "So, this could have probably killed a person if someone was walking on the street."

Researchers will collect data from Tuesday's tests so that other engineers can use it to analyze the buildings and be better prepared for the natural disaster.

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