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Earthquake-resistant Structures Subjects of UT Arlington Study

October 7, 2009

Engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington hope to provide architects and engineers with new data that will allow them to incorporate popular truss designs in buildings in earthquake-prone regions. Current structural information on these designs does not create sufficient confidence in their abilities to withstand seismic activity.

Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Shih-Ho “Simon” Chao is leading a team comprised of faculty at UT Arlington and Valparaiso University in Indiana. Using a $599,500 grant from the National Science Foundation, the team will study two steel truss systems – special truss moment frames (STMFs) and staggered truss frames (STFs) – that have the ability to achieve large, column-free floor spaces.

“Steel trusses provide wider column spacing due to their higher stiffness compared to solid web beams,” said Dr. Chao. “In the STF systems, a column-free space up to 60 ft. is very common, which is always the dream for architects.”

Although STMFs and STFs provide a wide range of structural, architectural and economical benefits, limited research data are available on the seismic performance of these systems. The UT Arlington and Valparaiso University research team will utilize multi-axial subassemblage testing equipment at earthquake simulation laboratories at the University of Minnesota to evaluate the seismic performance of these systems and recommend innovations to improve their seismic performance.

The goal of this research is to advance seismic safety and design of building structures by advancing knowledge about the behavior of STMFs and STFs. “The outcomes of this research will provide engineers more information on how these systems respond to earthquake excitations, as well as a design methodology so that these systems can be used in high-seismic zones with great confidence,” Dr. Chao continued.

In additional benefits, the project grant will support undergraduate students at Valparaiso University and the University of Minnesota to participate in the research and allow the investigators to create three-dimensional models of both the experimental tests and analytical models.

These models will be disseminated to the professional and academic communities and also used to develop educational tools to introduce K-12 and undergraduate students to earthquake engineering research activity, the significance of earthquake effects and the functions of building structures. The educational tools will be made available in the public domain.