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Grant would create tools for assessing earthquake damage to buildings

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office: 817-272-7075, Cell: 214-546-1082,

Andreas Stavridis is being paid to create an earthquake from the roof down at a southeastern California building.

Through a new National Science Foundation grant, the UT Arlington civil engineering assistant professor will develop new numerical simulation tools to predict performance and strength of buildings in future earthquakes.

His research results could lead to changes in building codes so that buildings could withstand more severe earthquakes with less damage.

Damaged building in El Centro, California

Andreas Stavridis, a UT Arlington assistant professor of civil engineering, and his team will place sensors in this building in El Centro, Calif., to determine strengths and weaknesses of the building, which has been damaged by earthquakes. Stavridis will shake the building simulating an earthquake to accumulate the data. The findings could lead to better building codes in the future.

“Predicting the strength of existing buildings and their performance in future earthquakes is crucial as it will allow us to determine which buildings are safe and which need to be retrofitted or demolished,” Stavridis said. “We will develop new models and provide guidelines so that practicing engineers can apply them on any building of the same type.”

A byproduct of the research will be the demolition of a two-story building in southeastern California city of El Centro.

Stavridis visited the damaged building after the 2010 Baja California earthquake. He then met with city officials who consider the building a public hazard and want it repaired or demolished.

“In a way, this building’s misfortune is our opportunity,” Stavridis said. “This will not be an ordinary demolition. Simulated earthquake loads will be used to damage and eventually demolish the building. All this will be monitored with cameras and sensors to observe how the building reacts to the earthquake loads. This has been never done before and it will give us insight and data. Plus, if we’re successful, these tools could be adapted to assess damage from blasts, tornados and hurricanes.” 

Stavridis will team with Babak Moaveni, an assistant professor at Tufts University, the city of El Centro and researchers at the University of California, at Los Angeles (UCLA) in the project. Stavridis will lead the team under the $350,000 grant and is responsible for designing and performing the testing of the building. Stavridis and Moaveni will interpret the data and use it to evaluate their computer models.

UT Arlington researchers will develop tools predicting how the building moves and gets damaged, while Moaveni will use the test data to pinpoint damage. These tools will be used in the future by practicing engineers to determine if buildings are safe to be used or if retrofit is required.

UCLA – through the NSF – will provide the portable shakers that would be attached to the top of this building in El Centro to create the shaking.

Stavridis’ team also plans to induce further damage and measure the stress on the reinforced concrete frame of the building, which dates back to the 1920s. The building has sustained substantial damage from major earthquakes in 1940, 1979, 1987 and 2010. The building was repaired and retrofitted after the first three earthquakes but the 2010 quake – a 7.2 on the Richter scale – was too severe. The building has been red-tagged by El Centro officials.

Stavridis was well acquainted with the city of El Centro as he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California, San Diego. While in San Diego, he designed and tested several large-scale structures using the nation’s largest shake table. Testing an entire building to the ground though is a big challenge.

J.-P. Bardet, Dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, was previously with the University of Southern California and knows too well how earthquakes impact everyone’s  lives and property there.

“Answering essential structural questions of how buildings react to an earthquake is extremely important,” Bardet said. “These tools could help people in any earthquake region in the world.”

Stavridis’ work is an example of innovative research under way at UT Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit to learn more.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.