A new $12.2 million federal grant will allow the University of Nevada, Reno, to more than double the size of its earthquake research center, making it the largest quake simulation facility in the country, school officials said.
Construction of a new 23,000-square-foot Shake Table Laboratory will allow for seismic tests on much bigger models of buildings and bridges than have ever been tested.
The lab has been conducting earthquake research for 25 years on shake tables, simulating seismic waves propagating through layers of soil beneath foundations to see how different structures react. The expansion will make it possible to house five 50-ton-capacity shake tables instead of the present four.
“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,” said Ian Buckle, director of the center’s Large-Scale Structures Lab.
“Safer buildings, bridges and more resilient communities will be the end result,” he added.
When completed, the combined area of new and existing facilities at the school’s Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research will exceed 30,000 square feet, said Buckle.
Construction of the $18 million project is to begin in October and scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013.
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.
“Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “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.”
Buckle said the facility supports itself financially. In the past 10 years, major research grants and contracts acquired by the Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research totaled $38.5 million.
“We have a backlog now, a long list of projects of people and agencies who want to use the lab. For example, our next big project is a 145-foot, curved, 130-ton bridge project that takes up every bit of current space, door-to-door and wall-to-wall,” he said.
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