Major Expansion for Nevada Quake Research Center

September was national preparedness month. But disasters aren’t just going to take the other 11 months of the year off, you guys, so it’s important that the efforts to increase readiness continue. 24/7/365 is what I always say.

Critical but under-reported to that endeavor is research. We can’t know how to prepare unless we know precisely what we are preparing for. So it was with great exuberance that I came across this news story from the Insurance Journal about a major expansion to one of the nation’s premier earthquake research labs, the Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research at the University of Nevada, Reno.

A new $12.2 million federal grant will allow the University of Nevada, Reno, to more than double the size of its earthquake research center, making it the largest quake simulation facility in the country, school officials said.

Construction of a new 23,000-square-foot Shake Table Laboratory will allow for seismic tests on much bigger models of buildings and bridges than have ever been tested.

The lab has been conducting earthquake research for 25 years on shake tables, simulating seismic waves propagating through layers of soil beneath foundations to see how different structures react. The expansion will make it possible to house five 50-ton-capacity shake tables instead of the present four.

Great news indeed.

The final pricetag of the expansion is expected to be $18 million, creating a center of more than 30,000 square feet by 2013. And perhaps most encouragingly, this $12.2 million allocation comes as part of a $50 million package of grants that the Commerce Department handed out recently for the construction of new scientific research facilities in the United States — meaning that nearly 25% of the funds went to disaster research.

Looks like natural catastrophe risks are moving up the federal radar.

And as Ian Buckle, director of the center’s Large-Scale Structures Lab, aptly noted, the pay-off is well worth the investment.

“This will be a quantum jump in the range and complexity of experiments that can be undertaken in both new and existing laboratories, with advances in state-of-the-art earthquake engineering that are not currently possible,” said Ian Buckle, director of the center’s Large-Scale Structures Lab.

“Safer buildings, bridges and more resilient communities will be the end result,” he added.

I think everyone can get behind that.

Nevada Earthquake Research

The Rogers and Wiener Bridge Structures Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno. (Photo: University of Nevada)

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