2007 Pro­gres­sive Col­lapse Resis­tance Com­pe­ti­tion Tests how Pre­dic­tions Stack Up to Reality

Earth­quakes and explo­sions can lead to the destruc­tion of build­ings, but unless the col­lapse is imme­diate, ini­tial damage to load-​​bearing parts may not affect the entire struc­ture. Civil engi­neers have long been spec­u­lating as to how con­crete struc­tures might behave fol­lowing the removal of a column for instance, but North­eastern Uni­ver­sity pro­fessor Mehrdad Sasani and his team decided to test and see for them­selves how pre­dic­tions match up with what actu­ally hap­pens. In order to make it a learning expe­ri­ence for others too, they orga­nized an inter­na­tional edu­ca­tional com­pe­ti­tion inviting dozens of uni­ver­si­ties and pro­fes­sional orga­ni­za­tions from across the U.S. and Canada.

Titled Pro­gres­sive Col­lapse Resis­tance Com­pe­ti­tion (PCRC2007), the event aims to pro­vide under­grad­uate and grad­uate stu­dents, as well as pro­fes­sionals, with an oppor­tu­nity to learn about pro­gres­sive col­lapse resis­tance of rein­forced con­crete structures.

It is an excep­tional oppor­tu­nity for acad­emia, industry, and even the engi­neering experts judging the com­pe­ti­tion, to watch and learn how real struc­tures respond to damage,” said Sasani, an Assis­tant Pro­fessor of Civil & Envi­ron­mental Engi­neering at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “The over­whelming response from uni­ver­si­ties, engi­neers and archi­tects sug­gests that the industry is eager to develop new ways to build struc­tures that can with­stand mul­tiple haz­ards and save people’s lives.”

The ulti­mate goal of this edu­ca­tional event — building better buld­ings and saving lives –is con­sis­tent with Northeastern’s emphasis on inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research that addresses soci­etal needs.

As part of the com­pe­ti­tion, par­tic­i­pants are expected to pre­dict the response of a small scale 2-​​D phys­ical model of an RC struc­ture, fol­lowing pre­de­fined ini­tial damage. The model was built by Sasani’s team and is located inside an engi­neering lab on North­eastern campus. During step one of the exper­i­ment, a glass column of the model will be shat­tered, there­fore removing a load-​​bearing ele­ment of the three-​​story struc­ture. As a second step, should the struc­ture stay upright, weights hung from the beams repli­cating the weight of the building will be pulled down­ward sev­eral times throughout one of the exper­i­ment days to test whether the struc­ture can with­stand the tension.

Com­peting teams, including 10 U.S. and 3 Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties, as well as sev­eral engi­neering firms, must have sub­mitted their pre­dic­tions prior to the exper­i­ment as to how the struc­ture might respond to the ini­tial damage. They com­pete in two cat­e­gories; Level 1 includes under­grad­uate stu­dent and Level 2 is com­prised of grad­uate stu­dents and professionals.

The two-​​step exper­i­ment will be car­ried out on Thursday, November 29th and Friday, November 30th at North­eastern University’s Col­lege of Engi­neering and every stage will be web­cast throughout those days.

Win­ners of the com­pe­ti­tion will be revealed after the judges reviewed the sub­mis­sions against the results of the exper­i­ments, on Feb­ruary 29th, 2008. Prizes ranging from $1000 to $8000 and the award cer­e­mony will be held April 25th, 2008 at the Struc­tures Con­gress in Van­couver, Canada.

The National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF) sup­ports Sasani’s research and edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties through a career award for the multi-​​hazard pro­gres­sive col­lapse analysis of struc­tures. The Con­crete Rein­forcing Steel Insti­tute and FM Global are major spon­sors of PCRC2007, with addi­tional sup­port from the North­east Cement Ship­pers Asso­ci­a­tion, the Port­land Cement Asso­ci­a­tion, the Rein­forced Con­crete Con­struc­tion Com­mittee, and Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Inc. Sup­port is also pro­vided by the North­eastern University.

For more infor­ma­tion about the 2007 Pro­gres­sive Col­lapse Resis­tance Com­pe­ti­tion, please visit www​.pcr​c2007​.neu​.edu and con­tact Renata Nyul at r.​nyul@​neu.​edu or at 617–373-7424.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.