Jerome F. Hajjar, pro­fessor and chair of the Depart­ment of Civil and Envi­ron­mental Engi­neering, has been named a recip­ient of a 2010 Pop­ular Mechanics Break­through Award, which rec­og­nizes the prod­ucts and inno­va­tors that truly moved society for­ward in 2010.

Hajjar and a col­league from Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity will receive the award for devel­oping a new struc­tural system that helps build­ings with­stand large earthquakes.

Known as the rocking frame seismic engi­neering system, it employs a design that allows the building frame to rock without shearing, with replace­able steel “fuses” that absorb most of an earthquake’s energy. The system also includes ten­sile steel cables that pull the building to its plumb, upright posi­tion once an earth­quake ends.

Hajjar and his col­leagues designed the system as a National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion Net­work for Earth­quake Engi­neering Sim­u­la­tion research project.

The researchers rec­og­nized that during a large earth­quake, build­ings designed according to cur­rent codes can expe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural damage and can also shift off their foun­da­tions. This kind of damage makes it dif­fi­cult, and often finan­cially unrea­son­able, to repair those structures.

Our goal was to develop a resilient building system that employs self-​​centering rocking action and replace­able energy-​​dissipating fuses to pro­vide safe, cost-​​effective earth­quake resis­tance,” said Hajjar.

By dra­mat­i­cally reducing the risk of cat­a­strophic damage and by facil­i­tating quick repairs through replace­able steel fuses, the system min­i­mizes building down­time and the asso­ci­ated dis­rup­tion fol­lowing severe earth­quakes. The system also improves sus­tain­ability by min­i­mizing the envi­ron­mental impacts of post-​​disaster recon­struc­tion and by cre­ating more resilient communities.

The research team suc­cess­fully tested the system on the world’s largest shake table at the Hyogo Earth­quake Engi­neering Research Center Shake Table in Miki, Japan.

We are working now to deter­mine how best to incor­po­rate the design into the spec­i­fi­ca­tions for con­structing new build­ings,” said Hajjar.

Hajjar will be fea­tured in the November 2010 issue of Pop­ular Mechanics.