US – Test Building Performs Well

8 August 2023

California: One sunny May morning, an earthquake jolted a small area of San Diego. Minutes later, another temblor hit, causing a 10-story wood building to sway. 

The quakes were intentional, triggered by a computer and the shaking was confined to a 1,000-square-foot platform on which the building – a full-size test model – stood.

The structure is the tallest ever subjected to simulated earthquakes on the world’s largest high-performance “shake table,” which uses hydraulic actuators to thrust the steel platform through six degrees of motion to replicate seismic force. The shake tests are part of the TallWood Project, an initiative to test the seismic resiliency of high-rise buildings made of mass timber. The mockup has been already subjected to more than 100 seismic events during the $3.7 million experiment, and will undergo more before the testing period ends in August.

“You’re putting a building through the number of quakes it will never, ever experience unless it’s around for 5,000 years,” says Thomas Robinson, founding principal of Lever Architecture, a Portland, Oregon, firm that helped design the TallWood structure. Recent changes to buildings codes in the US permit mass timber buildings as tall as 18 stories. But unknown until now is how such high-rises would fare in earthquake-prone areas of the world like California.

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