Developments in Brief : Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On in This Lab

Bridges will sway and buildings will be shaken to their rafters in the nation’s first laboratory capable of full-scale testing for earthquake resistance. “We intend to take these buildings right up to the edge of destruction,” director Dr. Gil Hegemier said at the lab’s unveiling last week on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. “This lab will play a key role in understanding the response of structures to seismic expectations.”

The key feature of the $4-million facility is a stationary three-foot thick reaction wall that can be connected to structures up to five stories tall by piston-like hydraulic devices called actuators. The actuators, which are anchored to the face of the reinforced wall, are attached to the test structure and can shake it according to computerized instructions. Hundreds of meters and gauges attached to the test structure will record its reaction to the computer-simulated earthquake.

“Hopefully, this will eliminate a lot of the seat-of-the-pants kinds of judgments we currently have to make because of a lack of controlled information,” Hegemier said. There is a similar seven-story facility in Tsukuba City, Japan.