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mass timber earthquake test

Largest earthquake test for mass-timber tower successful in California

US architecture studio Lever Architecture and a team of researchers have successfully tested the earthquake-resistant capabilities of a 10-storey, mass-timber building in California.

Carried out early this year, the test featured a massive hydraulic table to prove the resiliency of a skyscraper constructed out of engineer timber against seismic magnitudes similar to 6.7 and 7.7 earthquakes.

Mass timber tower earthquake test
A team of architects and researchers have successfully tested a 10-storey mass-timber tower for earthquake resilience

At 112 feet tall (34 metres), it is the tallest building ever to be tested on a shake table and involved hundreds of specialists from academia, construction, architecture and materials industries.

Part of the Natural Hazard Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) Tall Wood Project, it brought together a group of researchers and architects such as Portland and Los Angeles-based studio Lever Architecture.

Mass timber earthqyake test
The design featured a rocking wall and steel rods that ran the length of the structure

Lever Architecture designed the tower for the Colorado School of Mines-led test, utilising the largest shake table in the world at the University of California, San Diego, which measures 25 x 40 feet (7.6 x 12.2 metres).

"It's demonstrating this idea of resiliency in buildings," said Lever Architecture principal Thomas Robinson. "As you might be aware, when there is a major earthquake, the buildings are designed to stay standing up, but after the earthquake, most of them need to be deconstructed."

"This is a type of technology that allows buildings to self-centre and actually be repaired and be immediately occupiable."

mass timber earthquake test
The goal was to prove earth quake resiliency of large timber structures

The technology includes an all-timber lateral system with mass-timber rocking walls and post-tension steel rods running the height of the structure.

Included in the testing were more than seven types of engineered timber including such as glued laminated timber (glulam), cross-laminated timber (CLT) and nail-laminated timber (NLT).

"This is the first time a building this tall has been tested on a shake table at full scale, and the test will validate mass timber as a seismically resilient building material for tall structures," said Colorado School of Mines associated professor Shiling Pei.

The team hopes that the success of the test could help to change building codes in favour of building more large-scale buildings from timber in earthquake-prone areas such as California.

Mass timber earthquake test
A variety of different timber products were used for the design

The team also hopes to test the reuse potential for wood used in engineered-timber products for large buildings and is sending parts of the building to a lab for testing.

Lever Architecture has been at the forefront of mass-timber architecture and is known for its early proposals for tall buildings using the material.

Earlier this year, Dezeen investigated how mass-timber has developed in our Timber Revolution series by talking to experts in the field who are thinking about how and if mass timber can change the way people approach the built environment.

The photography is courtesy of Timberlab/FLOR Projects.

Project credits:

Main funding partner: US National Science Foundation
University partners: Colorado School of Mines University of California San Diego, University of Washington University of Nevada, Reno, Colorado State University Washington State University, Lehigh University, Michigan Technological University, Kyoto University, Universitá Degli Studi Dell’Aquila, Oregon State University.
Industrial partners: Simpson Strong-Tie, Sumitomo Forestry, Boise Cascade, Freres Lumber, SmartLam, Mass Timber Services, Construction Specialities, Aqurahome Co. Ltd., DR Johnson Wood Innovations, Computers and Structures Inc., Cemco Steel, Rex Lumber Company, Idaho Forest Group, Henkel Adhesives, Hexion, USG, Winco Window, Innotech Windows and Doors, Ehmcke Sheet Metal Corp., Allegion, Southwest Carpenters Union.
Other collaborative partners: Forest Products Lab, USDA Binational Softwood Lumber Council, Softwood Lumber Board, Think Wood, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, Colorado School of Mines Foundation, WoodWorks.
Design and construction partners: Swinerton, Timber Lab, Steel Framing, Industry Association, SBM, Exponent, KPFF, LEVER Architecture, Coughlin Porter Lundeen, Holmes, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, StructureCraft, KL&A Engineers and Builders, Brewer Crane and Rigging, UMC Energy Solutions, CadMaker

More images and plans

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