A team from the University of Buffalo is planning to conduct a never-before attempted experiment – setting off a large-scale earthquake simulation to determine how vulnerable New York’s un-reinforced masonry buildings (row houses) are to tremors. It is hoped that the research will help the local government to plan for potential casualties and assist insurers in calculating property losses should such an event occur.

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The test has been designed to imitate the 2011 Virginia quake that shook the east coast two years ago and will take place on Feb. 19 at the University at Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER). The simulation will put two 14-foot-tall walls made of 100-year-old brick to replicate New York’s turn-of-the-century ‘brownstone’ houses to the test.

An earthquake shake table will be used to mimic the Virginia tremor, which was also felt in and near the New York region. Initial predictions expect the walls to fall apart and crumble to the ground, but time will tell if this is the case.

If you’re wondering whether this test is a waste of time because earthquakes don’t regularly hit New York, then you’ll be interested to know that such quakes do occur periodically. In fact, the region was hit by  a 5.5 magnitude temblor in 1884.

“New York City is not a high seismic zone, but the risk there is significant because of the existing infrastructure and large population,” said Juan Aleman, PhD candidate and Fulbright scholar in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “With this test, we hope to learn how buildings will react to a quake similar to the one that struck Virginia in 2011.”

+ University of Buffalo

Images: AngMoKio (WikiMedia Commons) and University of Buffalo