9th US National & 10th Canadian Conference on Earthquake Engineering header image 3

Plenary Sessions

Sunday, July 25, 2010 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Each of the conference’s plenary sessions was intended to present a balanced view, considering earthquake science, engineering, and socio-economic aspects, with perspectives provided by speakers from the United States and Canada.

The 21st Century Goal for Seismic Safety: Resilient Cities

Poland portraitChris D. Poland, Chairman, CEO and Senior Principal
Degenkolb Engineers, San Francisco, California

This talk addressed the concept of resilient cities and how to define metrics to evaluate resilience, building on the community work that Poland has spearheaded in San Francisco in recent years. He provided a historical perspective on how the concept of resilient cities has evolved, from the early concepts of earthquake resistant design to new perspectives brought by the new century.

The Role of Structural Consultants and Design Practitioners in the Development of Canadian Earthquake Codes

DeVall portraitRonald D. DeVall, Senior Consultant
Read Jones Christoffersen LTD, Vancouver, British Columbia

Ron DeVall presented an overview of the Canadian Code System and the involvement of structural designers and engineering consultants in the development of earthquake code requirements for the Canadian National Building Code and its Canadian Standards Association design standards. He also discussed implementation of research carried out by Canadian practitioners and their impact on the construction process.

U.S. Federal Programs

Because of the critical importance of the U.S. federal programs, the opening plenary session also included brief presentations by each of the agencies that are sponsoring the conference:

  • The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • The U. S. Department of Energy
  • The four agencies that comprise the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program:
    • The National Institute of Standards and Technology,
    • The Federal Emergency Management Agency
    • The National Science Foundation
    • The U.S. Geological Survey

Monday, July 26, 2010 8:00am – 9:30am
The four Monday morning plenary session speakers provided viewpoints on the hot topics and future directions for the fields of geotechnical and structural engineering, seismology and ground motions, and the social sciences.

Scenario Spectra for Design Ground Motions and Risk Calculation

Abrahamson portraitNorman Abrahamson, Senior Engineering Seismologist
Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Francisco, California

A common method for developing design spectra based on the probabilistic approach is uniform hazard spectra (UHS). Abrahamson will present a new approach for developing a suite of realistic scenario earthquake spectra. He believes that the choice of using a UHS rather than multiple spectra for the different scenarios should be the decision of the engineering analyst, after determining whether requesting multiple scenario spectra is worth the additional analysis costs.

Future Directions in Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering

Boulanger portraitRoss W. Boulanger, Professor
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis

This talk on future directions in geotechnical earthquake engineering focused on predicting and remediating ground deformations, predicting performance of soil-structure systems, resiliency and performance-based design, and sensing for risk reduction and resiliency. The potential in these areas is enhanced by advances and opportunities afforded by large-scale experimental facilities. Progress will also be affected by the interactions between teaching, research, and practice.

Understanding Interdependencies Among Critical Infrastructures

Ventura portraitCarlos Ventura, Director/Professor
Earthquake Engineering Research Facility, Department of Civil Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

The system of critical infrastructures constitutes the backbone of modern societies. After presenting a brief review of current research being done on the interdependencies of these infrastructures during large disasters, Ventura will discuss a methodology recently developed at the University of British Columbia in response to the need to develop knowledge, tools, and recommendations to support coordinated decision making.

Societal Dimensions of Earthquakes and Other Disasters: Findings in Search of Theory

Tierney portraitKathleen Tierney, Director/Professor of Sociology
Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado at Boulder

Social scientists have successfully developed and tested middle-range theories concerning hazards, disasters, and risk. However, advances have come at the expense of a more comprehensive theory of disaster vulnerability, impacts, and outcomes. Advances in vulnerability science and resilience studies have furthered the state of the art. The application of world system theory at a global scale and socio-political ecology theory at national, regional, and local scales can result in further integration across space, time, and hazard types.

Wednesday July 28, 2010 8:00 am – 9:30 am


Metro Centre-East
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.

Moderated by Reginald DesRoches of the Georgia Institute of Technology, this session will provide insights that go well beyond the initial reconnaissance reports on these two major seismic events, covering geotechnical issues, social science aspects, the performance of reinforced concrete buildings, and the correlation of ground motion with damage.

Ellen M. Rathje
Associate Professor,
University of Texas, Austin

Haiti: Relationship between Geotechnical Conditions and Damage Patterns

On January 12, 2010 a magnitude Mw 7.0 earthquake struck the Port-au-Prince region of Haiti. The earthquake epicenter was located immediately west of the city of Port-au-Prince, and the damage induced by this event was extreme. The Geo-engineering Extreme Events Re-connaissance Association (GEER) mobilized a team, funded by the U. S. National Science Foundation, to document the geotechnical and geological aspects of this event. This presentation will focus on the observations from the reconnaissance efforts as well as the subsurface information (i.e. shear wave velocity, soil types, CPT measurements) collected during the field campaign. Topics that will be discussed include geologic conditions as derived from our field work, shear wave velocities across the city and their relationship to damage patterns, and liquefaction along coastal areas.

Jonathan Bray
University of California, Berkeley

Chile: Geo-Engineering Reconnaissance

The February 27, 2010 Maule, Chile earthquake (Mw = 8.8) is the fifth largest earthquake to occur since 1900. Its effects were felt along 600 km of the central Chile coast. Tectonic displacement of the hanging wall produced both uplift of over 2 m and subsidence of up to 1 m in coastal regions. The report of the NSF-sponsored Geo-engineering Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) team includes a brief summary of engineering seismology and earthquake ground motions, a description of the use of remote sensing to provide insight into damage patterns, and an in-depth discussion of the important role of coastal uplift and subsidence resulting from the underlying tectonic movement. Seismic site effects were also important in this earthquake.

Soil liquefaction occurred at many sites, and often led to ground failure and lateral spreading. Several buildings were damaged significantly due to foundation movements resulting from liquefaction. Liquefaction-induced ground failure displaced and distorted waterfront structures, impacting the operation of key port facilities. Critical lifeline structures, such as bridges, railroads, and road embankments, were damaged by ground shaking and ground failure. The damage to some sections of Ruta 5, the primary North-South highway in Chile, was pervasive. Several key earth structures experienced some distress, and in one case a liquefaction-induced tailings dam failure produced a flow slide that killed a family of four.

Mary Comerio
University of California, Berkeley

Social and Economic Challenges for Recovery in Haiti

The January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake caused a tragic loss of more than 230,000 lives and fractured the island nation physical, social and economic systems at all levels. More than 300,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, 1,500 schools and health centers collapsed, and most government and many commercial buildings were rendered unusable. Over 1.5 million Haitians (15% of the country’s population) have been directly affected by the earthquake, with one million now living in temporary shelters and 500,000 relocated elsewhere. The earth-quake’s damage has been conservatively estimated at US $10 billion, of which 40% is in housing. Recovery could take 10 years or more, and the process of managing the transition phases as well as the recovery is daunting, given the limited government resources. At the same time, Haitian authorities view the recovery as an opportunity to develop key industries (agriculture, tourism, ports and trade), reduce environmental hazards, develop appro-priate infrastructure (water, sanitation, transportation), address land tenure issues, and build back better housing with schools, health clinics and other social services decentralized. The challenge will be to manage and coordinate developers and NGOs while keeping an open process in which citizens have political input and economic participation.

Patrick Paultre
University of Sherbrooke, Quebec

Performance of Buildings in the Haiti Earthquake

The Haiti earthquake officially caused casualties to about 3% of the total population of the country and 10% of the population of the capital Port-au-Prince. It left the capital city in an ongoing state of emergency. This talk will identify the causes of the catastrophe and offer suggestions for avoiding a future repetition. Examples from engineered buildings will identify the most common causes of failure. A multistory building that survived the earthquake is an example of what performed well during the earthquake.

Jack Moehle
University of California, Berkeley

Performance of Buildings in the Chile Earthquake

The Chile earthquake affected a region with a population exceeding eight million people. It earthquake exposed a vast inventory of buildings, highways, ports, airports, and other lifelines to the damaging effects of ground shaking, ground failure, and tsunami. It was, without a doubt, the largest and most significant earth-quake engineering laboratory test in modern times. Most modern engineered facilities passed the test in flying colors, but a notable minority suffered disabling, and in some cases complete, damage. This talk addresses the successes and the failures, with emphasis on modern engineered concrete buildings, which are the predominant engineered building type in Chile. It looks to underlying effects including ground motion, architecture, and structural engineering. And it postulates implications for building codes and engineering practices.

Carlos Ventura Professor
University of British Columbia, Vancouver

John Cassidy Research Scientist
Geological Survey of Canada

Ground Shaking from the Chile Earthquake: Applications to Cascadia

The 2010 Chile earthquake provides a rare opportunity to compare strong shaking observations with damage patterns. This subduction earthquake was caused by up to 13 m of eastward slip of the Nazca plate beneath the South American plate. The rupture zone extended nearly 600 km along the Chile coast and covered the most populated region of the country — extending from south of Concepcion to just south of Valpraiso (near the latitude of Santiago). A devastating tsunami was generated that impacted the coast of Chile and also extended across the Pacific Ocean. As this is the type of earthquake that is expected along the Cascadia subduction zone of western Canada and the U.S., and given that modern building codes and construction styles in Chile and Cascadia are very similar, the Canadian Association of Earthquake Engineers sent a team of 10 engineers and a seismologist to the earthquake zone to learn from this earthquake. This presentation will focus on sites where strong ground shaking was recorded (the data available to date range from about 0.1g to 0.66g). The general characteristics of the ground motions obtained in the region will be discussed and salient features of the records will be presented. Examples of the damage observed in the vicinity of the strong motion recordings will be presented and discussed. The relevance of this set of ground motions to the Pacific Northwest will be highlighted.

Banquet – Read More

Thursday, July 29, 2010 10:00am – 12:00 noon

Closing plenary session

Representing their disciplinary perspectives, each speaker in the Thursday morning closing plenary summarized and assessed the conference and discussed future needs, followed by open discussions during the last 20 minutes. Each presentation featured:

  • Overview of the topic
  • Critical evaluation of what has been presented and accomplished at the conference.
  • Critique of current research in their area of emphasis, assessment of particular areas that are deemed especially valuable, and identification of weaknesses
  • Expectations of what will be achieved in the next several years for the safety of earthquake-prone communities
  • Insight into the direction of future research, and whether their insight is compatible with the future directions discussed in Monday’s plenary session.

Ground motion:
Nicolas Luco
Research Structural Engineer
U.S. Geological Survey
Denver, Colorado

Geotechnical and lifelines:
Jonathan Bray
Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering
University of California, Berkeley

William Holmes
Principal, Structural Engineer
Rutherford & Chekene, San Francisco, California

Tad Murty
Adjunct Professor, Department of Civil Engineering,
University of Ottawa, Ontario

Business and social science:
Lucy Arendt
Assistant Professor, Austin E. Cofrin School of Business
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay