University of Nevada, Reno to Expand Earthquake Research Center

October 5, 2010

If insurance against earthquakes is a concern of yours, you’ll be interested to know about a new $12.2 million federal grant that was given to the University of Nevada, Reno, in order to make their earthquake research center the largest quake simulation facility in the nation, more than doubling its size. The new Shake Table Laboratory, which will comprise some 23,000 square feet, will allow researchers to conduct seismic tests on models of bridges and buildings that are much larger than any that have been tested before.

For the last twenty-five years, earthquake research has been conducted at the lab using four shake tables, which simulate the effect of seismic waves moving through layers of soil beneath building foundations, in order to gauge how different structures respond to that sort of stress. The expansion will allow the housing of five 50-ton-capacity shake tables.

Ian Buckle, the director of the Large-Scale Structures Lab at the test facility, explained, “This will be a quantum jump in the range and complexity of experiments that can be undertaken in both new and existing laboratories, with advances in state-of-the-art earthquake engineering that are not currently possible.” He added, “Safer buildings, bridges and more resilient communities will be the end result.”

Buckle also said that the total combined area of the new and existing facilities at the university’s Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research will be greater than 30,000 square feet. Construction is expected to begin this month, with a projection completion date of Fall, 2013, and a cost of $18 million.

The $12.2 million grant is part of $50 million in grants that the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded this week to build new scientific research facilities across the country.

According to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Lock, “Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive. These construction grants will help the U.S. produce world-leading research in science and technology that will advance our economic growth and international competitiveness.”