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Media Advisory

Engineers conduct seismic test of metal shear wall on Nov. 20

15 November 2006

ATTENTION: Technology and general assignment reporters

Contact: Sarah Yang, Media Relations
(510) 643-7741 scyang@berkeley.edu

Seismic testing at the University of California, Berkeley, of a new class of a metal shear wall that could significantly improve the ability of multi-family residential housing to withstand earthquakes without increasing construction costs.

Engineers at Tipping Mar & Associates, a Berkeley-based structural engineering firm, came up with the concept of the simple, non-proprietary wall system, and UC Berkeley researchers are helping test and develop the system.

The metal panel will be subjected to 25,000 pounds of force and cyclic displacement, simulating the type of major earthquake expected to occur in the Bay Area. Researchers will stress the panel to the point of failure, which will likely involve buckling metal and popping screws.

9 a.m., Monday, Nov. 20

Structural Engineering Research Lab, 2nd floor of Davis Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. A map of the campus is online at www.berkeley.edu/map.

Bozidar Stojadinovic, UC Berkeley associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Steven Tipping, structural engineer and president of Tipping Mar & Associates; Robert Tener, executive director of the Charles Pankow Foundation, which is funding the project; and Don Allen, director of engineering at the Steel Frame Alliance.

The metal shear wall could become an alternative lateral bracing system that is stronger, more flexible and less expensive than traditional bracing systems now used for multi-unit residential buildings. The system employs a corrugated metal decking material screwed to metal studs. Researchers estimate that the new panels are three times stronger than equivalent plywood panels, and twice as strong as comparable metal framing material currently on the market. The metal panels can be prefabricated and delivered to the construction jobsite, helping lower costs.

"This system will lead to important safety improvements in the construction of new homes, as well as provide economical retrofitting solutions for existing buildings," said Stojadinovic. "We want this accessible to any contractor who is interested, which is why we are making the final design freely available to the public."