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Expanding the Boundaries of Engineering Discovery

George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation Facility
Grand Opening Ceremony and Forum


University at Buffalo | Friday, September 24, 2004

For decades, earthquake engineering researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB) have been at the forefront of their field, leading the nation in earthquake engineering discoveries.

With the opening of the new $21.2 million George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) Facility with UB's Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering (CSEE), faculty researchers and students are set to broaden their vision and sharpen their focus as they continue to transform earthquake engineering research -- and optimize discovery in other related fields as well, including homeland security.

The largest investment of 15 laboratories in the National Science Foundation's $81.9 million nationwide network of advanced engineering facilites, the expanded UB laboratory ranks as the world's most versatile testing facility of its type.

The expansion more than doubles laboratory capacity from 12,000 to 25, 000 square feet. The new facility stands four-stories in height and houses twin reconfigurable six-degrees of freedom shake tables, each with a 50-ton capacity. These enable researchers to test large-scale structures up to 120 feet in length and 30 feet in height. Additional high-performance hydraulic equipment, an expanded strong floor, and a 30 x 60 foot reaction wall allow for pioneering work in integrated real-time physical and computational simulation testing.

This state-of-the art facility represents the best that America offers in advanced computational and experimental equipment. With the intellectual capital of faculty and students at UB and across the country, the NEES facility will enable researchers to push back the boundaries of engineering investigation and discovery.

On September 24, 2004, the University at Buffalo officially opened its $21.2 million facility. Housed in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, the laboratory is the largest investment of the 15 laboratories in the NSF's $81.9 million nationwide nework of advanced engineering facilities.


Forum: Visions of Leaders: Structural and Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering Research Needs for the Mitigation of Earthquake Risks for the Next Decade

Grand Opening Ceremony

Photo Galleries


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, the largest investment in the National Science Foundation's $81.9 million nationwide network of 15 advanced engineering facilities, and one that is expected to vastly enlarge the scope of earthquake engineering research at UB, in the United States, and in the world.

The day's activities began with a morning forum featuring presentations from leaders representing various federal and state agencies. Following introductions by Michel Bruneau, MCEER Director, Mark Karwan, Dean, UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Michael Constantinou, Chair, UB Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, the speakers were:

  • 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, New York State 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

The purpose was for these leaders to share their visions for earthquake engineering research – structural and geotechnical – for the next decade. Formal presentations were followed by a one-hour session during which audience participants were given the opportunity to voice their research visions. This session was moderated by Chris Poland, Chairman, CEO and President of Degenkolb Engineers, from the practicing community.

The 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 the National Science Foundation’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 the University at Buffalo 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 twice, to ground motions from a moderate size earthquake: once in the east-west direction, whereby it was protected by the seismic dampers; once 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.

photo of plaque ceremony

(From left to right) Michael Constantinou, Mark Karwan, President John B. Simpson, A. Galip Ulsoy, Andrei Reinhorn and Michel Bruneau unveil the plaque dedicating the new facility.

In addition to the “live” demonstration, the audience also 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 “co-laboratory,” 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.


quote: the real act of discover consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes"

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