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March 12, 2018

Engineering earthquake resilience in downtown skyscrapers

Building sensors feed new community models to maximize function, minimize disruption after an earthquake

Structural engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) are using downtown Los Angeles as a testbed to broaden the design of earthquake-resistant buildings to earthquake-resilient communities. In this case, resilience means that in the event of a major earthquake, or even "the big one," tall buildings would better withstand the initial impact, and clusters of skyscrapers would be able to recover more quickly from any disruptions, such as water and power outages. The key is in the data and computer modeling.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UCLA team is creating new models that incorporate performance data not only from shake-table tests, but from sensor networks in actual buildings. The models and new systems the team engineers are meant to guide safety inspections following earthquakes, helping engineers get to hotspots more quickly.

The research tackles an important and challenging problem and will advance the ability to model and design more resilient tall buildings by also considering the impact of their performance on urban centers.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1538866, Utilizing Remote Sensing to Assess the Implication of Tall Building Performance on the Resilience of Urban Centers.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.