Santa Clara University


On-campus Civil Engineering Facilities Expanded

In addition to the Pittsburgh Annex, the Department of Civil Engineering has also expanded on- campus facilities with the addition of a 200 sq. ft. interim high-bay structural test frame housing three independently-controlled hydraulic actuators (one horizontal and two vertical). The new space has overhead hoists and ready access to the street, enabling testing of specimens up to 10 ft. high by 10 ft. in width. The equipment is integrated with a specialized data acquisition and control system. Department Chair and Professor Mark Aschheim, internationally renowned for his work in performance- based earthquake engineering and development of bamboo as a structural building material, has developed interfaces for the sensors and controls specifically for student and faculty research. “We’re performing quasi-static reversed cyclic tests for evaluating the performance of structural components subjected to earthquake loading.”
Caption: Civil engineering students test a bamboo wall on “Big Bertha.” Credit: Heidi Williams

Dubbed “Big Bertha” by the students, the equipment which has a horizontal capacity of 164,000 lbs., a vertical capacity of 134,000 lbs. over displacements of 30 in. can be used to test structural components such as shear walls, moment resisting frames, and braced frames. “Up until now, we’ve had tremendous space challenges in our lab,” said Aschheim. Current work is focusing on structural components made from non-conventional materials having low environmental impacts. Aschheim leads a student team developing bamboo components for SCU’s entry in the 2013 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition taking place in October. “This high bay space has allowed us to test prefabricated bamboo wall panels that we intend to use as bearing walls and as shear walls in the construction of our solar house. It’s a tremendous set up—useful for understanding the behavior of many different types of structural components used to resist earthquake-induced motions.“

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