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SIP Get Pass in Earthquake Test at Cincinnati Lab!

The "sustainable" house design being studied by the FAS Housing Technology Project will stay intact even when it is shaken by forces larger than the strongest known earthquake. This was the result of a live shake table test held on January 19 at the Trentec laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Coming soon after the devastating December 26 tsunami that swept across South Asia, the successful test aro

used wide interest in this new technology. The design has already been shown to be cost-effective and safe in fire and wind. It is also environmentally friendly because it uses no wood. FAS considers it could provide earthquake-resistant, energy-efficient housing at very low cost to millions living in seismically active regions such as Indonesia and Afghanistan. (FAS Public Interest Report, Fall 2004 p.10).

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The two-story model unit stayed fully intact through the strongest earthquake-like shaking in three dimensions.

The Discovery Channel was on hand shooting live. The test team was interviewed as the forces were made stronger. Rachel Jagoda, FAS Housing Technology Project Manager, H.H. "Hoot" Haddock of Thermasave Corporation of Florence Alabama, and Gary Chapman of Trentec, waited to see if it would fail - or at least bend - on the next round. FAS co-sponsored the test with Thermasave, which supplied the panels and the novel construction system.

Even though it uses no braces or framing, the structure remained fully intact to the delight of the test team. Jagoda said afterwards, it "showed that a home built from these materials would have survived the most severe earthquake ever recorded. It demonstrates that homes can meet the most rigorous seismic standards without increasing cost. In fact the structure is less expensive to build than standard 2'24' framed construction and much more energy efficient."

"This test is the last of a series proving that these inexpensive composite panels can be used to build homes that are safer, less expensive to build and operate and more comfortable than conventional home construction," said Henry Kelly, FAS president. The system has been certified by the International Code Council and can be used for homes in the United States. FAS will use the technology to build an elegant home in Houston this summer, demonstrating that it is compatible with the highest standards of U.S. architecture.

Discovery's segment ran on "Daily Planet" on February 18 (link is at The Christian Science Monitor wrote "now, a group of scientists hope to convince poor residents of seismologically active areas to replace their mud huts with foam homes."

The Cincinnati Enquirer noted that the first test was "equivalent to the San Francisco earthquake of 1989." In the last test "the simulator shook the house with a force of 5Gs (or five times the force of gravity) in three directions simultaneously." The paper quoted Trentec's Chapman saying: "After 1 G it's like throwing the house up in the air. We were basically trying to make it fly, and it held together. That's good stuff."

Haddock has refined the expanded polystyrene panel system for two decades. Afterwards he told the Enquirer: "There was no damage and we just simulated an earthquake beyond any in the history of the world. So I'd say I'm quite happy. It's taken me 20 years to get to this point."

Sustainable house is intact after shakeup simulating Earth's strongest earthquake Two-story test house on the shake table at the Trentec Inc. laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. The house walls, floor and roof are made from expanded polystyrene panels cladded with cement board, which fit together without wood framing or braces. The house remained fully intact after being shaken up harder than the strongest recorded earthquake, in a test on January 19, 2005. This housing system is certified for building in the United States, where a number of structures have been built. Since the system is also cheap and energy efficient, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) is researching its use in earthquake prone regions like Afghanistan. The non-profit FAS will have a demo home built in Houston, Texas, this summer to get this cheap, energy efficient technology better known. Photo Credit: Rachel Jagoda

For high resolution image go to Select "Sustainable Housing" and click on "Housing Technology Image Gallery."

For more information, call Henry Kelly at the Federation of American Scientists, 202-546-3300. For background on the project go to On left of page select "Housing Technology."


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