MCEER logo

MCEER Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

skip navigation

Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

mceer logo

Composite Hospital Room Used to Demonstrate Nonstructural Components Simulator

audience in seesl lab

About 100 people attended the UB-NCS dedication

On October 12, 2007, the University at Buffalo unveiled the Nonstructural Components Simulator (UB-NCS), a two-level platform for real-time experimental performance evaluation of nonstructural components and equipment.

The Dedication was the culmination of several years of research carried out by MCEER investigators at UB. Led by Andre Filiatrault, Gilberto Mosqueda and Andrei Reinhorn, the MCEER team developed testing protocols for the equipment, and designed the hospital room used for the Dedication’s demonstration tests. The testing protocol was described in detail at the morning’s Symposium on Seismic Regulations and Challenges for Protecting Building Equipment, Components & Operations by Rodrigo Retamales, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering (CSEE) at UB.

The UB-NCS enables engineers to examine the effects of earthquakes on architectural systems, building equipment and contents. It is the latest addition to the UB-NEES facility, located in UB’s CSEE Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL). The equipment acquisition was funded through the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) program of the National Science Foundation with additional support for development from MCEER.

John B. Simpson at podium

UB President John B. Simpson welcomed the audience to the NCS Dedication

At the Dedication ceremony, introductory remarks were made by UB president John B. Simpson, and CSEE chair A. Scott Weber. They were followed by Andre Filiatrault, SEESL Director, who dedicated the NCS in memory of earthquake victims around the world. MCEER investigator and CSEE faculty member Gilberto Mosqueda next provided an overview of the NCS and an explanation of the two demonstration tests to be conducted during the Dedication.

The tests were conducted to determine the effects of two earthquake intensities on a full-scale composite hospital room containing various types of medical equipment. Nonstructural content typically found in an emergency room and other rooms in a hospital, such as steel stud partition walls, a suspended ceiling system, a sprinkler system with horizontal and vertical piping spanning between two stories, copper medical gas lines, a 180-lb. “patient” (actually a crash test dummy), four wall-mounted patient monitors and a surgical lamp were installed prior to the test.

dummy patient in mock hospital room

The composite hospital room included a 180-lb “patient” along with typical medical equipment

equipment strewn on floor

After the test, equipment and contents throughout the room were thrown to the floor

The first demonstration subjected the mock hospital room to 100% of the force of a design earthquake, with peak drifts of .87%, and peak accelerations of .77g. Real-time video from several cameras positioned within the mock hospital room and above its ceiling, gave the more than 100 attendees and 200 remote web-cast observers a glimpse of the behavior of equipment and contents throughout the shaking.

After a brief examination of damage, the room was shaken for a second time—to an intensity corresponding to 150% of the design earthquake, or a maximum considered earthquake (MCE).

Two monitors fell during the first test—breaking off at their swivel mounts, while the mounts remained attached to the walls. Damage was also observed to the gypsum walls, several ceiling tiles, and to the surgical lamp, which crashed to the floor. While water and gas piping remained intact, gas piping within the walls was permanently bent into an “S” shape. During the larger MCE motion, more damage was seen, and the “patient” was thrown off the gurney and almost out of the room.

In addition to Filiatrault, Mosqueda, Reinhorn and Retamales, the research team included SEESL lab staff Mark Pitman and Scot Weinreber. Ruben Boroschek, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities at the University of Chile, also contributed to the research effort. A formal cooperative agreement between MCEER and the WHO Collaborating Center helped in the acquisition of the hospital equipment used in the demonstration tests, and will further promote the exchange of experimental test results between researchers in the U.S. and Latin America, with a focus on the seismic safety of medical equipment.

Both tests along with an archived webcast of the Symposium can be viewed at For more information, contact , SEESL director or , MCEER.

Future tests are planned under a newly awarded NEESR project that will examine earthquake effects on ceiling-piping-partition systems.