Apartments put to the ’quake test

By Michelle Locke The Associated Press
Thursday December 13, 2001

RICHMOND — A reinforced apartment building shook, rattled, but did not fall as engineers put it to the earthquake test Wednesday. 

The experiment, conducted at a University of California, Berkeley, field station, subjected the three-story building to the same kind of forces as those experienced in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Berkeley officials said it was the largest test of its kind to date. 

The goal was to see how well a retrofitted steel frame would protect a building with the tuck-under, ground-level parking typical of many complexes. That kind of structure is weaker because of the openings where cars are parked. 

In the Northridge quake, 16 people died in one building that had tuck-under parking. In all, the 6.7 earthquake caused more than 70 deaths and about $15.3 billion in insured losses. 

Test results will be used to evaluate building ordinances and develop improved standards. 

“This is not an academic exercise,” said Rich Eisner, who is with the state Office of Emergency Services and was among those watching the test. 

The building tested was an experimental model built in the style of a 1960s complex, complete with boxy shape and stucco finish. 

It was mounted on a huge “shake table” – a thick slab of concrete – which moves to simulate the rolling and shaking of the earthquake. 

The tests sounded like the real thing, producing thunderous rumblings and rattling the small windows. 

But the quivering produced little damage. 

Engineers were also testing a new strategy of using tiny, wireless remote sensors to give feedback on structural integrity. 

The experiment is part of a $6.9 million wood frame project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the California emergency services office. 

The Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE) manages the project under subcontract to the California Institute of Technology. 


On the Net: consortium site, http://www.curee.org UC Berkeley site, http://www.ce.berkeley.edu/ 7/8mosalam/wood—project.html.