Less Is More When It Comes To Earthquake Safety

UCSD Engineers Put Seven-Story Building To Test

To withstand an earthquake in a high-rise building, the thought has always been, the more steel reinforcement, the better.

However, a test by University of California San Diego engineers proved that less is actually more.

They built a seven-story building with less steel reinforcement atop a shake table.

"If you reduce the reinforcing and understand how the system is going to behave, you design a less strong building, but its performance will be much better," structural engineer Bob Englekirk said.

By design, the top of the building is supposed to sway significantly, but not break.

Using the same ground motions recorded during the 1994 Northridge event, engineers put the ground in motion Tuesday.

During the test, the building moaned, groaned, and moved around, but little else.

And that's the point -- using less reinforcement causes the building to behave better.

"This building has gone through two earthquakes in two days with substantial ground motion and it's held up beautifully," Englekirk said.

More tests with even stronger shaking are planned for the future.

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