How to Shake 1 Million Pounds of Concrete

Professor Jose Restrepo

SE researchers spent three months rigorously conducting earthquake simulation tests on a half-scale, three-story structure, and are analyzing the results to be used in the future designs of buildings (parking garages, college dormitories, hotels, stadiums, prisons, and increasingly, office buildings) across the nation. Precast concrete, which is built in pieces and then put together to construct buildings, has been a breakthrough in the industry in terms of saving both time and money and increasing durability.

While precast concrete has proven to be a robust design material for structures, researchers are working to provide the industry with new methods of connecting these pieces more efficiently. Researchers produced a series of earthquake jolts as powerful as magnitude 8.0 on a structure resembling a parking garage. The 1 million-pound precast concrete test structure had the largest footprint of any structure ever tested on a shake table in the United States. The $2.3 million research project is a collaboration between UC San Diego, the University of Arizona, and Lehigh University. It is funded by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and its member companies and organizations, along with the National Science Foundation, the Charles Pankow Foundation and the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES).