ARLINGTON, VA. – On July 14, 2009, a six-story condominium building shook with the earthquake motions of the 1994 Northridge quake, but one and a half times as intense – equating to an event that occurs, on average, once every 2,500 years – which is more powerful than any quake California has experienced in modern times.

The final experiment of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) multi-year NEESWood project, the effort tested new ways to construct buildings that can withstand severe forces of nature. Using the 1988 Uniform Building Code as a guide for construction, project engineers used the resulting test data to develop computer models that may help designers predict how woodframe buildings will fare in an earthquake.

For the final experiment, project engineers worked with industry to develop a condominium building that has the design and detailing necessary to withstand forces that exceed even those in current safety specifications. In total, the wood-frame component is 14,000 square feet of living space composed of 23 residential units (both one- and two-bedroom designs).

Working with the Japanese government’s National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention, as part of a broader partnership with NSF, the NEESWood engineers tested their structure at E-Defense – a facility that houses the world’s largest shake table.

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