A six-story wood-frame condominium was shaken by forces more powerful than any earthquake that California
has experienced in modern time.
How would the building that you live in stand up to an earthquake? If you lived in an earthquake-prone
part of the world don't you think it would be a good idea to test building materials, methods and designs before construction?
History has demonstrated that building materials, designs and construction methods can be responsible for death or survival
when an earthquake strikes. Damage inventories after major earthquakes show that some types of buildings provide survivable environments for people while other types of buildings collapse with significant loss of life.
World's Largest Shake Table Test
Researchers recently completed the world's largest shake table experiment to learn how a full-size building
responds to the vibrations of an earthquake. In this test, a six-story wood-frame condominium with
twenty-three residential units was shaken by forces more powerful than any earthquake that California
has experienced in modern time.
One of the goals of this experiment was to learn how the forces of an earthquake transmit through a
specially-designed wood-frame building of several stories. Data was collected by placing sensors
throughout the structure to monitor the forces and motion between building components. That data will be valuable
in assessing the performance of construction methods, materials and designs used in this building.
The test demonstrated that a six-story wood-frame building can provide survivable environments for people during
such a severe earthquake. This particular building performed significantly better than many other types of residential structures of comparable size.
However, if the building had suffered significant damage, it could still remain in use after extensive repairs..
Can Wood Work in Taller Buildings?
Although most wood-frame residential housing has historically been limited to one to three story
structures, this test demonstrated the durability of wood construction in taller buildings and provided a
design basis that can be refined in the future.
This experiment was conducted as part of the NEESWood Project, led by researchers from Colorado State
University. Japan's National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention hosts the large
shake table used for the experiment. An industry partner, Simpson Strong-Tie, provided technical and design
support. Major funding was provided by the National Science Foundation.
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Video of the world's largest shake table test.
Construction of the building for the shake table test. Photo by John van de Lindt, Colorado State University. Enlarge Image
Full-size condominium building positioned on the shake table and ready for testing.
Photo by John van de Lindt, Colorado State University. Enlarge Image