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The Woodframe Project

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Projects : CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project

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

Appendix 5.6.2 - Media Proposal

20 November 2000

Mr. Bob Vila
HomeWorld Media 
P.O. Box 322
Barnstable, MA 02630

Dear Mr. Vila,

A $7 million research project on how to design and build
earthquake-resistant woodframe homes is now more than halfway
through its three-year timespan.  I would like to propose that
we provide extensive video footage, construction site venues,
interview contacts, and other resources to you to produce a
theme program or programs on the subject of how to build a house
to withstand earthquakes.  I have developed the concept and funding
for similar programs, such as "Earthquakes: Seismic Sleuths,"
which will be aired on the Discovery Channel's Assignment Discovery,
and have concluded that a television program or programs that
featured Bob Vila would be the best option for communicating the
Project's work to the general public.

This program of research and implementation activities is called
the CUREE (Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake
Engineering) - Caltech (California Institute of Technology) Woodframe
Project.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency, following the
1994 Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles, recognized that even
highly engineered California residences suffered more damage than
expected, and ordinary older construction sometimes even suffered
collapse.  Subsequently, with the backing of the California Governor's
Office of Emergency Services, FEMA funded the CUREE-Caltech Woodframe
Project.  Numerous structural engineers, builders, and building
officials are combining their expertise with the results of testing
that is being conducted at a dozen different universities to improve
the state-of-the-art of building woodframe structures to efficiently
resist earthquakes.  At last count (more active faults are discovered
every year), three-fourths of the states have moderate-to-high
seismic zones as mapped by the building code, and thus this is a
topic of national interest.

One of our Project's explicit goals is to communicate the technical
findings of the Project to the general public.  We think you are
pre-eminently qualified to help us in that aim.  We know we have a
wealth of "photogenic" resources to provide at no cost for this purpose.
For example, the full-scale, two-story house shake table experiment
paid for by the Project that was conducted at the University of
California at San Diego generated live CNN coverage on two occasions
and generated over 350 television, radio and print news stories
worldwide.  For video clips of the test, view the enclosed video or
go to the website address: 

The study is now in its final year, and we have some very interesting
results from our research.  A full-scale three-story apartment building
is being shake-table tested at UC Berkeley.  Individual nailed
connections are being tested at Brigham Young University.  Diaphragms
(floors) are being tested for their lateral capacities at Virginia
Polytechnic Institute.  A full-scale mock-up of the framing (rim
joists or blocking, sill plates, sheathing, etc.) that transfers
horizontal earthquake forces from one floor down to the story below
is being tested at Washington State University.  From small pieces to
assemblies to whole structures, laboratory tests are simulating the
effects of earthquakes and the results will be affecting the building
code.  Some of the findings relate to whether it makes a difference
whether box or common nails are used in attaching sheathing to framing.
Other results relate to the effect of gluing floor sheathing to floor
framing.  We would like to discuss with you and/or your producers the
feasibility of featuring the results of this work in a special half-
hour video, with you as host and narrator. We have the funding to help
support such a video, as well as an accompanying website, and wish to
produce a piece that will be instructive, fast-paced, and intriguing
enough to appeal to a wide range of audiences.  We see the general
"story line" as "rocket science meets two-by-fours." I hope to interest
you in an opportunity to branch out into the scientific end of your
field and yet still show tools, materials, and people that make your
show appealing. 

We believe our efforts fit well with your demonstrated commitment to
promoting home safety (such as your involvement with HUD's "Healthy
Homes for Healthy Children"), as well as your interest in educating
the public through products such as "Bob Vila's Home Design."  With
your credentials and highly visible educational efforts via television,
video and CD-ROM, you could provide millions of people with the
knowledge and necessary tools to protect themselves and to make
their woodframe dwellings and commercial structures safer.

Our project will be completed in just a few months, and we must move
quickly to produce this educational video and website.

Please call me, or respond via email to "RSVP" whether or not you
think this theme would fit into your plans should be explored.


Jill Andrews
Southern California Earthquake Center
Manager, Education and Outreach, for the CUREE-Caltech Woodframe Project


Professor John F. Hall
California Institute of Technology

Robert K. Reitherman
Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering

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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 03.27.15