Release Date: June 3, 2015
BUFFALO, N.Y. – After a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal in late April, much of the country’s buildings were destroyed.
But there were also several instances where one structure collapsed and another one, right next to it, did not. And that is why Andreas Stavridis, PhD, University at Buffalo assistant professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, is traveling to Nepal with a team of researchers.
“We want to see what that difference is – what made one structure fail and what made one survive,” he said. “We will collect data and then build models and try to rationalize that and then explain what worked and what didn’t work and why.”
Stavridis will head to Nepal on Thursday with colleagues from Oregon State University, the Sapienza University of Rome, and the University of Porto in Portugal. Also on the trip will be Supratik Bose, a second year PhD student at UB.
Stavridis’ research focuses on masonry structures and about 60 percent of Nepal’s buildings are masonry, or made of adobe, bricks, or stone for example. Roughly 25 percent are concrete frames infilled with masonry panels, he said.
“Masonry structures don’t give us much of a warning, they just collapse,” he said. “Modern structures contain steel reinforcement that prevents such catastrophic collapses and are designed to stay standing despite damage so we can evacuate safely. Masonry structures without reinforcement have a very poor behavior when it comes to earthquakes. They just collapse.”
While in Nepal, the team will travel to different buildings and classify each structure as damaged, mildly damaged, or not damaged – and what must be done to make these buildings safe. A representative from Nepal’s National Society for Earthquake Technology will lead the group.
Once in Nepal, Stavridis said they will have a better idea of what types of buildings will be assessed, but hospitals are certainly on the list.
After the trip, the group will return and report on their findings, shedding light on what makes certain buildings fail, and what makes others, even ones in close proximity, hold up.
“We hope that our trip brings a better understanding of how actual buildings behave during earthquakes,” Stavridis said. “The more people go to these devastated areas to study the seismic performance of these structures, the better.”