MCEER logo

MCEER Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

skip navigation

Volume 21, Number 3, Fall 2007

mceer logo

Symposium Aims to Educate Industry on Code Changes for Nonstructural Components

Bob Bachman

Bob Bachman discussed U.S. building code requirements for seismic qualification of important building equipment

Nearly 100 participants from 18 states, Canada and Mexico, gathered at the University at Buffalo (UB) on October 12, 2007 for a Symposium on Seismic Regulations and Challenges for Protecting Building Equipment, Components & Operations. These included building equipment and isolation/restraint manufacturers, engineers, healthcare facilities managers, faculty researchers, students, and other related practitioners.

The symposium opened with a discussion of recent changes to building codes and regulations, which now require certified seismic installation of equipment and contents. Two speakers, Robert Bachman, a consulting structural engineer and immediate past chair, ASCE 7 Seismic Task Committee (2002 and 2005 cycles), and Christos Tokas, of the State of California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), opened with presentations on changes brought about by the 2003 and 2006 International Building Code (IBC) and California’s SB 1953 legislation for hospitals, as well as the January 2008 adoption of the 2006 IBC in California. These included descriptions of current code requirements and test protocols for nonstructural components, and requirements in California’s Hospital Seismic Retrofit Program, which is designed to ensure continuing operation of acute care facilities following an earthquake.

Jay Lewis

Jay Lewis discussed the business advantages of seismic resilience

Session two involved presentations from a group of practitioners, and focused on implementation issues that they currently face, as well as how they are attempting to meet challenges posed by changing codes. Jim Carlson of the Omaha Public Power District and member of MCEER’s ASHRAE consortium explained how development of comprehensive codes, flexible implementation of code application by building officials (with enhanced training), proper installation by contractors, and qualification of equipment by manufacturers have been used by the nuclear industry and can be used by other industries to reduce earthquake risk. Jay Lewis of Terra Firm Earthquake Preparedness provided a business perspective, explaining the economic advantages of performance-based design to building owners, because loss of function is more costly than designing buildings that will function after earthquakes.

Scott Campbell of Kinetics Noise Control gave an overview of the harmonization of design parameters between structural and nonstructural components, emphasizing that limited nonstructural damage may produce loss of use of critical or expensive equipment. He was followed by Paul Hough of Armstrong World Industries who described the development of a protocol for testing and qualifying ceiling systems—which include light fixtures, sprinklers and other nonstructural components.


About 100 participants from the U.S., Canada and Mexico attended the half-day symposium

Seismic qualification and testing of equipment was the subject of the final session. Steve Eder of Facility Risk Consultants discussed seismic qualification of equipment by analysis methods, and explained an alternative, using earthquake experience data, as the Seismic Qualification Utility Group, or “SQUG” has developed for the past 20 years. Andre Filiatrault, UB, explained the testing equipment and protocols available to carry out qualification and seismic fragility testing of nonstructural components. Rodrigo Retamales, Ph.D. candidate from UB, described a novel testing protocol for experimental seismic qualification and fragility assessment of nonstructural components and systems using the nonstructural components simulator at UB.

The event was jointly sponsored by MCEER, the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory, and the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. For more information, visit

The Symposium was held in conjunction with the opening and dedication of a new nonstructural components simulator.