The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Wood presents a lot of benefits as a building material because it is strong, lightweight and environmental friendly. However, only changes in building codes will make wood competitive with steel and concrete.

The ability of steel buildings to bend without fracturing, or ductility, allows for extreme lateral loading from earthquakes and wind. This loading, however, subjects the solid web and flanges of steel members to buckling and fracture, thus crumbling the flat, solid surface, and leading to the potential for great damage. Virginia Tech assistant professor Matthew Eatherton will be using a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award to research how steel plates with strategically removed geometric patterns may better withstand everyday loads and extreme events than the currently used standard steel plates.

The city of Santa Monica, California will spend $100,000 over the next year identifying steel, concrete, and wood-frame buildings that would be vulnerable to an earthquake. If investigators determine that a building is at risk, the owners of the building must retrofit the structure to comply with current building codes. A timeframe for when building owners must complete the retrofits has not been announced.