Six-story UCSD building put to earthquake test

Posted at 11:07 AM, Jun 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-15 21:13:59-04

SAN DIEGO - A six-story steel-frame building on the world's largest shake table underwent one of a series of tests to see how the structure would withstand major earthquakes.

Engineers at UC San Diego witnessed Wednesday the towering building jolting and swaying in a simulation of the 6.7-magnitude Northridge quake.

That temblor caused heavy damage to the Los Angeles area in 1994, but the building, on top of UCSD's shake table near Miramar, withstood the force Wednesday.

The experiment could help determine whether steel frames are a better option than wood frames for tall buildings in earthquake-prone areas.

Researchers strapped 250 sensors and 40 cameras to the building to give them exact information.

"It will save a lot of life in future earthquakes in California," said UCSD structural engineering professor Joel Conte, Ph.D.

The construction industry is interested in building tall, steel-frame residential buildings because they are cheaper, faster and more durable than wood-frame buildings.

Engineers will subject the building to an even bigger earthquake this Friday. In the next few weeks, they will also set the six-story building on fire to see how the materials withstand a quake and subsequent fire.