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VIDEOS: Three-story apartment building shakes, rattles, and rolls during a seismic test that simulated a 1994 Northridge-scale earthquake



Khalid Mosalam
VIDEO: UC Berkeley civil engineering assistant professor Khalid Mosalam describes the rationale for the test.



steel frame, designed to resist seismic forces
A new steel frame, designed to resist seismic forces, was installed to simulate the typical way buildings like this have been retrofitted. Such retrofits often include steel beam supports.


Seismic sensor technology could prove useful to highrise buildings throughout California
21 December 2001

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations

BERKELEY — New sensor technology developed at UC Berkeley may soon help make buildings safer, as demonstrated by December earthquake simulations at the campus's Richmond Field Station.

In addition to 200 conventional sensors hardwired to the full-scale woodframe building to measure acceleration, 50 remote accelerometers developed by campus researchers were installed in key support points throughout the structure.

"After an earthquake, structural and civil engineers would traditionally go into a building to inspect it for safety," said Steven Glaser, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley. "With these sensors, engineers could evaluate a building's structural integrity in near-real time while standing safely outside."

During the simulations, data from the remote sensors were downloaded onto a laptop computer after each shake test. The information gathered indicated the force with which certain structural points had been subjected.

Glaser and UC Berkeley civil engineering students Judy Mitrani, a doctoral candidate, and Jan Goethals, an undergraduate, have been adapting the sensors to measure acceleration, a key indicator of how much force a structure has undergone during an earthquake or other disaster.

Their research is part of UC Berkeley's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), an ambitious initiative that brings together faculty from four UC campuses, the state and private industry to develop innovative technology capable of tackling some of society's most pressing problems.

The sensors used in the test are an application of wireless sensor networks developed by associate professor Kris Pister and professor David Culler, both from UC Berkeley's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The beauty of the remote sensors, said Glaser, is they eliminate the "spaghetti wires" required for conventional sensors and are 10 times cheaper, making them more useful and practical for placement in new building construction.

State law now requires a minimum of two accelerometers to be installed during the construction of new buildings at least five stories tall.

"Two sensors on a building are better than nothing, but to truly get useful information, engineers would want at least one sensor for each floor," said Glaser. "Because the sensors we're developing are so much cheaper and at least as accurate as conventional accelerometers, builders will actually be able to afford high-quality data."

Glaser has been working with San Jose-based Crossbow Technologies, Inc., to create a commercially available product by next spring.

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Shaking the foundations of the building industry: UC Berkeley engineers test retrofitted woodframe structure