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Projects : NEES Nonstructural

Simulation of the Seismic Performance of Nonstructural Systems


Nonstructural Component Simulator at the University at Buffalo

Nonstructural systems represent 75% of the loss exposure of U.S. buildings to earthquakes, and account for over 78% of the total estimated national annualized earthquake loss. A very widely used nonstructural system, which represents a significant investment, is the ceiling-piping-partition system. Past earthquakes and numerical modeling considering potential earthquake scenarios show that the damage to this system causes the preponderance of U.S. earthquake losses. Nevertheless, due to the lack of system-level research studies, its seismic response is poorly understood. Contributing to increased failure probabilities and damage consequences, loss of function, and potential for injuries.

Ceiling-piping-partition systems consist of several components and subsystems, have complex three-dimensional geometries and complicated boundary conditions because of their multiple attachment points to the main structure, and are spread over large areas in all directions. Their seismic response, their interaction with the structural system they are suspended from or attached to, and their failure mechanisms are not well understood. Moreover, their damage levels and fragilities are poorly defined due to the lack of system-level experimental studies and numerical simulation tools. In addition, modern protective technologies, which are readily used in structural systems, have never been applied to these systems.

This project integrates multidisciplinary system-level studies in order to develop for the first time, a simulation capability and implementation process to enhance the seismic performance of the ceiling piping-partition nonstructural system. A comprehensive experimental program using both the University of Nevada, Reno and University at Buffalo NEES Equipment Sites was developed to carry out subsystem and system-level full-scale experiments. The E-Defense facility in Japan was used to carry out a payload project in coordination with Japanese researchers. Integrated with this experimental effort is a numerical simulation program to develop experimentally verified analytical models; establish system and subsystem fragility functions; and create visualization tools to provide engineering educators and practitioners with sketch-based modeling capabilities. Public policy investigations were designed to support implementation of the research results.

The systems engineering research carried out in this project will help to move the field to a new level of experimentally validated computer simulation of nonstructural systems and establish a model methodology for future systems engineering studies.

Project update - February 7, 2013 [download]


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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 06.30.14