On Friday, September 24, 2004, the University at Buffalo celebrated the Grand Opening of its George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) Facility, part of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) $81.9 million nationwide network of 15 advanced engineering facilities. In conjunction with this important event, MCEER held a forum for nationally recognized leaders in the field of earthquake engineering, entitled "Visions of Leaders: Structural and Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering Research Needs for the Mitigation of Earthquake Risks for the Next Decade."
Held the morning of the Grand Opening, the Forum offered participants the opportunity to express their opinions on the most important benchmarks in advancing structural and geotechnical earthquake engineering in both the near and long-term, and how knowledge in earthquake engineering could be expanded to enhance the resilience of infrastructure against extreme events (natural disasters, technological disasters, and acts of terrorism against our society). Representatives of government and private funding agencies, prominent engineers, industry leaders and the three U.S. earthquake engineering research centers participated in the event. Formal presentations were followed by a one-hour session during which audience participants were given the opportunity to voice their research visions.
The discussion session, moderated by Chris Poland, President of Degenkolb Engineers, focused on ways to measurably reduce seismic risk in the U.S. in the next 10 years, using the new NEES facilities. The participants contributed many excellent ideas, and identified potential obstacles to attaining this goal. One recurring theme was the need to translate much of the new, cutting edge research results into guidance for practicing engineers that can be used quickly, on projects with tight budgets and timetables. The participants agreed that the new NEES network will afford many opportunities to advance the state-of-the-art and bring research and practice closer together to achieve a safer society.
The NEES Grand Opening ceremony, held in the afternoon, officially inaugurated the new laboratory expansion and its twin relocatable shake tables. It also kicked off a month-long celebration of events to mark the inauguration of the University at Buffalo's 14th president, John B. Simpson.
Mark Karwan, Dean of UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, presided over the grand opening. Remarks were made by President Simpson, A. Galip Ulsoy, Director of NSF's Division of Civil and Mechanical Systems, New York State Senator Mary Lou Rath, and Michael Constantinou, Professor and Chair of UB's Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. Collectively, they spoke of the promise of the new facility for UB, the field of earthquake engineering, homeland security and other developing fields.
MCEER Director Michel Bruneau introduced a multimedia presentation that highlighted the history of earthquake engineering accomplishments at UB and MCEER, and Andrei Reinhorn, Clifford C. Furnas Professor of Structural Engineering, Principal Investigator for NEES, Director of the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) at UB and longtime MCEER researcher, gave an inaugural demonstration of the facility's twin shake tables. Dr. Edmond Gicewicz, member of the University at Buffalo Council, and Dr. Satish K. Tripathi, UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, assisted Reinhorn by activating the controls to start the tables in motion.
The demonstration featured a scale model of a five-story building, located on one shake table. The model was equipped with seismic dampers in the east-west direction. On the second shake table, was a full-scale model of a room within the five-story model.
The building model on shake table #1 was subjected to two sets of ground motions from a moderate size earthquake: one in the east-west direction, where it was protected by the seismic dampers; and one in the north-south direction, where no damper protection was provided. Simultaneously, the room on the second shake table was subjected to the motions experienced on the second floor of the building model during the tests; first with dampers, then without.
The demonstrations clearly illustrated the protection provided by seismic dampers, as no damage occurred during the first test, and substantial damage was caused within the room when the building was shaken in the north-south, or unprotected direction.
In addition to the "live" demonstration, the audience viewed the tests via real-time video, streamed through the Internet. The Internet feed, or "tele-observation" capability, is a critical feature of the NEES program. NEES is designed as a national resource or "collaboratory," which connects the user community to the 15 facilities via high-definition video and high-performance Internet. The combined video and Internet capabilities of NEES allow for viewing (tele-observation) or operation (tele-operation) of NEES tests from remote locations.
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a plaque to mark the dedication of the facility, as well as a reception and tours of the facility.
More information about the Visions of Leaders Forum and the Grand Opening, including links to the archived webcasts, are on http://mceer.buffalo.edu/research/nees/grandopen/default.asp.
A. Galip Ulsoy, Division Director, Civil and Mechanical Systems, National Science Foundation
M. Myint Lwin, Director, Office of Bridge Technology, Federal Highway Administration
Michael Mahoney, Mitigation Division, Building Science and Technology Section, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Rick Land, Director, Engineering Services, Structure Design, California Department of Transportation
Sreenivas Alampalli, Director, Bridge Program and Evaluation Services Bureau, NYS Department of Transportation
Kurt Schaefer, Deputy Director, Facilities Development Division, California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development
John Filson, Scientist Emeritus, United States Geological Survey
Robert Hall, Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, United States Army Corps of Engineers