University of Alabama Building Earthquake Simulator

February 24, 2012

Okay, we know we harp about earthquake insurance a lot, but can you blame us? Just this month there was a quake in Missouri that was felt in nine other states.

That’s why we’re really excited about a new project currently underway at the University of Alabama’s South Engineering Research Center. On May 1st, a new laboratory equipped with a “shake table” will be able to test building designs and materials to see if they can withstand earthquakes.

What’s a shake table? Professor John van de Lindt, endowed chair of UA’s civil construction and environmental engineering program explains it as essentially, “…a large piece of steel that moves back and forth and represents the motion of the earth. This particular table is designed to be used to collapse structures.”

Why would you want to make something collapse? Van de Lindt says it’s to determine, “…the margin against structure collapses. We can’t know that unless we know exactly how these structures collapse.”

So why do this sort of research in Alabama, a place not exactly known for seismic activity? Professor van de Lindt says it’s because the UA program is meant to educate global engineers. Earthquakes, he says, are a global problems, and the engineers his program sends out into the world need to be able to face the challenges of dealing with them.