Mar 032009
Authors: Brian Anthony

Ten days ago, construction began on a building set upon the world’s largest earthquake shake table in Japan, and CSU and global researchers will use data from future tests to determine the resistance level of wood in a real earthquake.

CSU researchers who worked on the project said test results will be used to determine how buildings can be reinforced to withstand the forces of earthquakes, especially in California, which experiences dozens of earthquakes each year.

“That’s really the whole point, to apply it in the U.S.,” said Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering John van de Lindt, who worked as the principal investigator on the four-year project.

The seven story high building is the largest ever to be built on the 15 by 20 meter shake table located out in the hills of Miki City, Japan. The table was constructed between 2000 and 2004.

The table “shakes” using hydrolic actuators, which pump fluid into steel chambers and move the building.

In preparation for testing the real building against earthquake forces, van de Lindt and others experimented with construction designs on a smaller-scale building on a shake table in the U.S.

In total, the scientists generated 20 to 30 tests at various magnitudes, ranging from 6.7 to 7.3 on the Richter scale, topping out at a magnitude of about eight.

For the project, CSU partnered with Texas A&M University, State University of New York-Buffalo, the University of Buffalo, Maui Homes USA, other technical collaborators and Simpson Strong-Tie, a company that produces products to reinforce structural systems in homes to withstand natural disasters.

In order to most accurately represent real-life qualities, the shake table building will house 23 living units, six stories on top of one story of steel and two small retail shops van de Lindt approximated about the size of an average Starbucks.

He said the design was modeled after buildings in Los Angeles.

To make sure the model weighs the same as an actual building, steel plates will be inserted into each room instead of furniture, thus increasing the accuracy of the test results.

Previously, van de Lindt worked with Andre Filiatrault, the director of the Multi-Disciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the SUNY-Buffalo.

He said the overarching idea is that “people don’t understand how wood works in an earthquake,” and that results will answer this question.

Staff writer Brain Anthony can be reached at

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