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University’s new Earthquake Engineering Lab celebrates grand opening


block_n-7492166-8454077The move is complete and experiments are underway in the University of Nevada, Reno’s new Earthquake Engineering Laboratory. The College of Engineering hosted a grand opening today celebrating the new lab space in the world-renowned seismic engineering facility.

“The dedication of this building represents a milestone of past successes and the future of earthquake engineering,” Marc Johnson, president of the University of Nevada, Reno said. “This is an excellent example of starting something from an idea 30 years ago, growing and focusing on a program, developing a critical mass on which to build a national reputation. This is a great day emphasizing the role of research; not just discovering knowledge, but applying knowledge to solve world problems.”

Guests were treated to tours of the five-story 24,500 square foot building and a demonstration of one of the four shake tables performing seismic qualifications on a large gas-powered HVAC unit, subjecting it to different simulated ground motions. Other features of the expansion include offices, state-of-the-art computer control room and a 140-seat auditorium with telecommunication and audio-visual features to share knowledge with researchers in the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation consortium around the country, as well as researchers around the world.

“This expansion is a major accomplishment that will make us more competitive and productive,” Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering, said. “Our facility is unique worldwide and, combined with the excellence of our faculty and students, will allow us to make even greater contributions to the seismic safety of our state, the nation and the world.

“We will test new designs and materials that will improve our homes, hospitals, offices and highway systems. Remarkable research is carried on here. Getting to this point has taken a lot of hard work, it’s both a culmination and a beginning, ushering in a new era.”

The new Earthquake Engineering Laboratory combined with the adjacent Large-Scale Structures Laboratory comprise the biggest, most versatile large-scale structures earthquake/seismic engineering facility in the United States, according to National Institute of Standards and Technology, and possibly the largest University-based facility of its kind in the world.

“This is a momentous day,” Ian Buckle, professor of engineering and director of the earthquake/seismic engineering facility said to the audience in the new auditorium. “It seems like we just celebrated getting the funding award, when I said I was looking forward to inviting you all back. Well, that day has arrived. We’ve done a great deal since then.”

The building is already being used, with several small experiments accomplished, graduate students using their offices and scientists from Japan and China using office space dedicated for visiting researchers, and there is more still to build, with a teaching laboratory being built in the basement for use by graduate and undergraduate students.

The next, and first multiple-table, experiment is a large-scale two-span concrete bridge research project in collaboration with the University of Washington. The bridge, on which construction and preparation for experimentation is nearly complete, is slated to be shaken in mid-July.

The $19 million earthquake engineering lab expansion project is funded with $12.2 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NIST, $3 million from the Department of Energy, and $3.8 million of University and private donor funds. It allows a broader range of experiments and there is additional space to add a fifth large shake table.

“This facility is not just shake tables, it’s knowledge transfer,” Jack Hayes, director of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said. “It’s not just a beginning, as much as it’s a rebirth of sorts. With the excellent facilities across the parking lot, the University has contributed tremendously to earthquake engineering knowledge in the country for quite some time. Our overarching goal at NIST is to promote research, help produce economic growth and international competitiveness.”

Hayes said the University program was highly regarded in the review process for funding. More than 100 proposals were submitted and only five were funded, with the University receiving the highest cost share of the five recipients.

“It’s said that people are our most important resources,” he said. “Having excellent facilities like this helps make people be that most important resource.”

The expansion of the facility will allow for conducting of experiments that were not possible in the large-scale structures lab, will alleviate the backlog in projects the lab is currently experiencing, will accommodate more students and their projects, and will allow for more use of the facility by the local construction industry, other research institutions and government agencies.

The project created short-term construction jobs and will have a positive long-term employment and economic impact through other agency and private industry projects conducted at the facility.

The University of Nevada, Reno earthquake simulation facility is managed as a national shared-use NEES equipment site created and funded by the National Science Foundation to provide new earthquake engineering research testing capabilities for large structural systems.

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