UB Research Team Studies Ground Zero

With the nation is still reeling from the World Trade Center attacks, researchers at UB have already begun to study ways to minimize damage resulting from similar structural collapses.

A team of four civil engineers from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences traveled to the World Trade Center wreckage site Sept. 21 as part of a $100,000 grant given by the Natural Science Foundation to UB's Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. The grant permitted the UB contingent to perform research on the structural damage in order to develop preventative measures for future collapses.

"[MCEER's] mission is to discover, nurture, develop, promote, help implement, and in some cases pilot-test innovative measures and advanced and emerging technologies to reduce earthquake losses in a cost-effective manner," states the NSF Web site.

The team, consisting of MCEER Director George C. Lee; Michael Bruneau, MCEER deputy director; Andrei Reinhorn, professor of structural engineering; and Andrew Whittaker, associate professor of civil engineering, spent two days at the disaster site gathering and assessing information on affected buildings.

"We need to find out what causes a building to collapse and how you can predict it," stated Whittaker.

In particular, the team is studying information they believe will help to determine the causes underlying structural collapse.

"Just as the top research universities of California have assisted that state in developing guidelines and technologies for reducing losses from future earthquakes, the MCEER and UB team stands ready to serve an identical role for the state of New York, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center," said Whittaker.

Although researchers have just begun to analyze data accumulated on the trip, progress is being made using UB's engineering technology.

"It will be a while before definitive results are available [but] research is proceeding using advanced structural analysis methods at this time," said Bruneau.

"Answers from these studies will provide guidance to define a subsequent experimental work design."

Among other things, the study has focused on buildings near the WTC still in good condition.

"Our immediate hope is that we can develop a better understanding as to why those buildings remain standing, while our long-term goal is to see whether earthquake engineering technologies can be married to existing technologies to achieve enhanced performance of buildings in the event or terrorist attacks," stated Bruneau.

No reports will be released in the immediate future due to the study's unique circumstances.

"The UB team ... is devoting their special expertise on this project to serve the special needs of New York state," said Bruneau. "Due to the sensitive nature of this matter and related security issues, no interim research results will be released. We do not know at this time when a final report on our research will be made available."

For more information on the project itself, visit the MCEER on the Web at http://mceer.buffalo.edu/default.asp.