Daily Commercial News | May 29, 2023
Dennis Gam, MEng, P.Eng. | Principal

A Canadian engineering company is participating in a landmark research project in the U.S. that may set the stage for how future mass timber building enclosures are built to withstand seismic events.

RJC Engineers (RJC) is studying the impact of an earthquake of magnitude four to eight on the Richter scale on the integrity of windows, a critical component to the overall energy efficiency and safety of a building.

The tests are part of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research (NHERI) TallWood project that is taking place on an outdoor shake table at the University of San Diego, Calif. The project is simulating large earthquakes and their effects on a 10-storey mass timber building, the tallest ever test on a shake table.

The research is important because, even if unbroken, damaged windows can cause air to escape through the seals, resulting in poor energy performance and the escape of gases into the atmosphere.

“The NHERI TallWood project testing is attempting to detect the point at which window seals fail when subject to lateral building movements,” explains Dennis Gam, principal with RJC. “Lateral or sideways movements of a building can occur in both wind and seismic conditions. Window damage can be hidden and expensive to repair, and unseen breaches can cause larger impacts in energy efficiency and building durability.”

The building sector is one of the largest carbon emitters in the world. Residential, commercial and institutional buildings across Canada account for up to 18 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. As the windows get beaten up by shaking in an earthquake, they can leak more air and become a liability to the operation of the building, its durability and overall energy efficiency, says Gam.

“This would be an expensive repair that the current marketplace does not expect. We hope to find what the level of seismic movement is before the systems are irreparably damaged. From this, future design decisions can be informed.”

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