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Projects : NEES Nonstructural : Summary

Simulation of the Seismic Performance of Nonstructural Systems

Project Summary

Nonstructural systems represent 75% of the loss exposure of US 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 US earthquake losses.

Nevertheless, due to the lack of system-level research studies, its seismic response is poorly understood. Consequently, its seismic performance contributes to increased failure probabilities and damage consequences, loss of function, and potential for injuries. All these factors contribute to decreased seismic resilience of both individual buildings and entire communities.

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 modeling capability. Their seismic behavior cannot be dependably analyzed and predicted due to a lack of numerical simulation tools. In addition, modern protective technologies, which are readily used in structural systems, have never been applied to these systems.

This Grand Challenge project will integrate multidisciplinary system-level studies that will develop, for the first time, a simulation capability and implementation process for enhancing the seismic performance of the ceilingpiping-partition nonstructural system.

A comprehensive experimental program is proposed that will use the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and University at Buffalo (UB) NEES Equipment Sites to conduct subsystem and system-level full-scale experiments. A payload project using the E-Defense facility has been planned in coordination with Japanese researchers. Integrated with this experimental effort will be a numerical simulation program that will develop experimentally verified analytical models; establish system and subsystem fragility functions; and, develop visualization tools that will provide engineering educators and practitioners with sketchbased modeling capabilities.

Public policy investigations are designed to support the implementation of the research results.

The project is organized around a strategic plan that draws on the talents of 23 institutions around the country and collaborates closely with industry through a Practice Committee consisting of experts representing all aspects of the ceiling-piping-partition nonstructural systems. In addition to unique experimental facilities, NEES provides a valuable data archiving and exchange resource, as well as teleparticipation and modeling tools to create the necessary framework for success of such a collaborative research effort.

Broader Impacts: This project pioneers an integrated education, outreach, dissemination and implementation program including involvement in project research tasks of 15 undergraduate students from underrepresented groups and programs (AGEP) and faculty from a minority institution; plans for recruiting several of these students to the graduate program; an innovative science museum interface with K-12 students and the general public; summer engineering camps for minority and female students; plans for providing hands on experience to 20 students of a community college; outreach programs to engineers, architects and industry practitioners; and, plans for revisions to building codes, standards, and performance-based earthquake engineering guidelines.

The project will support the research studies of 15 graduate students and the involvement in project research tasks and activities of 21 undergraduate students. In addition to facilitating the project’s unique research opportunities, NEESit will be used for on-line participation by students around the country and will ignite interest in engineering in general and earthquake engineering in particular resulting in significant broader impacts on the engineering workforce.

Intellectual Merit: The proposed systems engineering research will 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. A system-level multi-site experimental research plan will result in a large-scale tunable test-bed with adjustable dynamic properties, which will be useful for future experiments. Subsystem and systemlevel experimental results will produce unique fragility data useful for practitioners.

Experimental evaluation of new protective devices and designs will result in an assessment of their capability for enhancing the seismic performance of ceiling-piping-partition nonstructural systems. An integrated multidisciplinary simulation and visualization program will explore new techniques to produce:

    (i) new simulation and visualization tools that will provide innovative 3D modeling mechanisms and reliable models to be used by researchers and practitioners;

    (ii) state-ofthe-art robust fragility data; and,

    (iii) tools that can be used for education and implementation purposes.

Finally, important public policy implications will be investigated through the use of representative index buildings and urban planning tools to estimate the cost benefits of the new protective devices and design concepts at both the individual building and the metropolitan area scales. The results will address important implementation barriers and provide compelling public policy rationales for amendments to building codes and standards and related guidelines.

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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 06.30.14