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Projects : CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project

Element 5 - Education & Outreach
Project Manager: Jill Andrews - Caltech (formerly with SCEC)

Task 5.6 - Media Production:  Electronic

Update #2: Summer 2000 features footage from the July 11, 2000, shake test and interviews with Bob Reitherman and André Filiatrault. Reitherman gives a succinct overview of the progress to date for the first four Elements of the Project: Testing and Analysis, Field Investigations, Codes & Standards, and Economic Applications. Andrews delivers a short description of activities in the 5th Element, Education and Outreach. Copies are available for $10 each from CUREE.

The "Ultimate Shake:" A Media Event

On July 11, millions of TV viewers were able to witness the house when it was tested with near-fault shaking recorded by a strong motion seismograph in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles. The UCSD engineers, led by André Filiatrault, used the Rinaldi Station record, which has a peak ground acceleration of almost 1 g and a significant near-fault "pulse" or lunge as well. This was the first time that the house had been fully furnished, with cameras installed to record the effect of strong motion on the building's equipment and contents, such as water heaters, shelving, TVs, bookcases, refrigerators and cabinets. Each type of nonstructural component was installed in pairs: One was anchored, and one was not.

All the major television network news organizations, plus many local news organizations in San Diego and Los Angeles covered the event: CNN and affiliates (hundreds nationwide), Fox News and affiliates, CBS, NBC, ABC World News, Good Morning America and many others. In addition, The Discovery Channel is preparing a story and website scheduled to appear soon.

KNBC and KFWB Radio (Los Angeles metropolitan area) aired stories for several days following. Printed stories ran in the Los Angeles Times (including a front page story the day after the event and a longer, more detailed article in the Business Section, with suggestions on how to prevent damage to your home through structural and nonstructural mitigation efforts); the San Diego Union Tribune; Associated Press State and Local Wire; and the New York Times (including a website, , which also features the video footage captured by USC's Distance Education Network on behalf of the CUREe Woodframe Project Element 5).

Scientific American, Popular Science, and the Chronicle of Higher Education conducted interviews with Project Managers. Copies of many of the articles that appeared are available from Element 5 Manager Andrews.

CUREE collaborated with UCSD and USC to conduct a live webcast during the test; Websurfers should go to to view archived footage. In this second live webcasting of an experiment on the house at UCSD, everyone has learned a great deal about to better communicate more widely via the World Wide Web. Once we worked out the various "bugs" associated with viewer capability, we found on July 11th that UCSD had connection problems, which resulted in only about 180 people able to view the live webcast. However, we are successfully streaming a digitized version via a link from the CUREE website to a server at USC, provided by their Distance Education Network.

Videotaped interviews were done with short scripts written in advance by Jill Andrews and USC DEN with the following subcontractors:

    • Jim Beck

    • Rob Chai

    • Gregory Deierlein

    • Daniel Dolan

    • Jim Mahaney

    • Kurt McMullin

    • Michael Symans

    • Ray Young

Results from this and other tests to be done on other woodframe structures will be used to modify designs for new houses and for retrofit of existing buildings. (see Appendix 5.6.1 August 2000 Update.)

Future video production

SCEC, in partnership with a professional production company, Summer Productions, Inc., and with funding from insurers, produced "Earthquakes: Seismic Sleuths," scheduled to air on Assignment: Discovery from February-June 2001 (9 am ET and PT Feb. 28, April 4, May 9, and June 13, 2001). Tapestry, Inc., a national distributor, which is marketing the video worldwide, wrote a contract for distribution of the video. To date, 40 TV networks are reviewing the video for airing in the spring of 2001.

With Summer Productions, potential exposure for SCEC and video sponsors is enormous: each video produced is owned by the sponsors, so unlimited use including reproduction rights, marketing, and selling our own copies is allowed. SPI, Tapestry, and all other TV networks that buy the video professionally market the video. SPI pays a 35% royalty fee to SCEC on all sales. Sample carriers either scheduled to air or now reviewing the video:

  • Primetime television on The Learning Channel, with cable carriage to 69 million households, or Discovery Channel, with carriage to more than 75 million households.

  • Educational television on Discovery Channel's Assignment Discovery, available on cable television to more than 76,000 schools. Assignment Discovery is used by more than 200,000 teachers in high school and middle school classrooms across the country.

(Credits, sponsor messages, and links to sponsors' websites will appear on packaged videos and on the accompanying website.)

We suggest doing a similar video and website, or series of videos if we are able to raise matching funds, for the Woodframe Project. The videos and accompanying websites, if constructed, would fill our need to produce instructional materials that would be widely available.

A first attempt to "test the waters," in the form of a letter, proposing the idea, was sent to Bob Vila's production company ("This Old House") by Andrews, Hall and Reitherman (Appendix 5.6.2 Media Proposal). This is the first proposal of many that will be sent to others, such as PBS Home Improvement Shows such as Hometime and About Your House ( SPI is interested in the project as well.

Please see sample budgets, Appendix The Earth Works and Seismic Sleuths. Cost range for two half-hour videos or 1 full hour video that can be adapted is $100,000 - $300,000, depending on location, time frame, size and scope of storyline, cost of stock footage, etc.

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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 03.27.15