This past week, I had the opportunity to work with one of my committee members at Notre Dame on developing a framework and plan of action for part of my research. (A brief refresher: my research is examining 1) how people perceive the safety of their houses in typhoons and earthquakes, 2) how safe post-disaster housing is in future typhoons and earthquakes from an engineering perspective, and 3) how and why engineering and household perspectives align or disagree).
The past few months have been devoted to task 1, and I am transitioning into task 2. While, with my advisors, I have been developing a framework and models to assess the safety of post-disaster housing in earthquakes, how to assess these houses in typhoons (i.e., extreme wind events) is something that is new to me, and I needed some help to get started. Thankfully, I have a kind and generous wind expert on my committee who was willing to spend the week working with me to devise a game plan on just how to tackle the wind assessment. And, man, what a wonderful week it was. Here are my three big takeaways:
- How structures respond to earthquakes and wind is VERY different
- We know A LOT more about performance-based engineering for earthquakes than we do for wind
- Being in a new place with new people and new perspectives was great for my work
Earthquakes vs Wind (A Brief Summary)
In an earthquake, we’re concerned with what a structure is made of – what’s its mass and stiffness? These properties determine the inertial loads that a structure experiences during an earthquake. And, while no two locations will experience the same exact ground shaking, we can expect (and design for) similar effects based on distance from a quake’s epicenter and soil profile.
However, for wind, we’re primarily concerned with a structure’s shape – what type of roof does it have? How tall is it? What is it’s aspect ratio? These characteristics determine just how wind will move around a building. Additionally, the exact direction of the wind and the specific surroundings of each building have SIGNIFICANT effects on the wind loads a structure experiences – wind loads are super location-specific. So, unless we conduct wind tunnel tests on each and every structure we build, we have to make some serious assumptions about what the wind pressures will be. (Thankfully, a lot of research has gone into developing rules for the building code).
So, what about performance-based engineering?
As we’ve learned more about hazards and their effects, the design community has sought to develop new standards – standards that will allow buildings to perform to a level desired by the owners, occupants, etc. And while methods to do so for earthquakes have been highly developed, they have yet to really progress for wind. Why? Well, part of the reason was described above – wind is so location-specific.
So what does that mean for me? I like to think that there’s both good news and bad news. The good news is, there is lots of space to make a contribution and provide to the body of knowledge. The bad news is, because there is so much space for contributions, there aren’t a lot of resources that we can rely on. That’s going to be our challenge in the next few months – how can we use the existing information and modify it appropriately to our contexts? How can we get results that we feel confident it?
New places, new people, new ideas, new energy
Do you ever get a burst of energy when you visit a new place? Doesn’t being somewhere new provide you with a new perspective and give new life to a project? That was certainly what I felt last week. Exploring a place I’d never been and getting to know people with different experiences and knowledge was exciting. I learned so much – don’t get me wrong, it was an intense week with lots of thinking (and use of whiteboards), but it was phenomenal. It was also humbling to realize just how much I don’t know and still need to learn about wind and the assessment of structures under extreme winds. I am incredibly grateful to the team at Notre Dame that took their time and efforts to help me with my project and hope to repay the kindness in the future.
But in the meantime, I look forward to being back in South Bend to watch my Hokies take on the Fighting Irish.