Researchers and Steel Industry Partners Begin Final Phase of Testing for Seismic Design of Light Frame Construction

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 2013 – A partnership of leading cold-formed steel design researchers from top U.S. and Canadian universities and design professionals from the steel industry, including the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), have begun the final phase of a three-year research project to increase the seismic safety of buildings that use lightweight cold-formed steel for their primary beams and columns. Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the researchers have already developed a series of computational models to determine how a complete building structure will perform during an earthquake.

The next stage in the testing involves the construction of a two-story structure and testing on a “shake table” at the University at Buffalo. The building will undergo the rigors of a controlled earthquake to determine how it performs. There will be two phases to the shake table testing: Phase One will test only the structural components, which include the cold-formed steel skeleton and the OSB (oriented strand board) sheathing for the floor diaphragm and roof; and Phase Two will add non-structural components like stairs, gypsum sheathing and interior partitions. The objective is to advance cold-formed steel light-frame design in buildings to the next level and equip engineers to implement these performance-based seismic designs in their projects.

The research team is led by Benjamin Schafer, Ph.D., P.E., of the Department of Civil Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and a long-time member of two standards-developing committees of AISI ― the Committee on Specifications and the Committee on Framing Standards. Dr. Schafer’s team includes additional researchers from The Johns Hopkins University and Bucknell University, with input as well from colleagues at the University of North Texas, Virginia Tech, and McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada).

“This project has already resulted in several innovations that will immediately impact seismic cold-formed steel design standards, making buildings safer,” Project Team Leader Benjamin Schafer, Ph.D., said. “Now comes the fun part – getting to see how all the research plays out on the shake table. One of the important deliverables from this project will be the transfer of our research results into an open source software framework. This data will then be made available to engineers, allowing them to see how their structural system designs will respond to an earthquake before they are constructed. This software will create cost efficiencies and potentially save lives.”

Several steel industry partners are participating in the project, providing technical expertise and donating materials and additional funding. The steel industry partners include AISI, Bentley Systems, Incorporated, ClarkDietrich Building Systems, Devco Engineering, Inc., DSi Engineering, Mader Construction Company, Inc., Simpson Strong-Tie Company Inc., the Steel Framing Industry Association and the Steel Stud Manufacturers Association.

“We appreciate the valuable technical and economic input that our industry partners have provided,” Schafer said. “Their role will continue to be critical after the project concludes as they provide technology transfer of the findings to practicing engineers. From a research perspective, we will seek additional opportunities to build on the body of knowledge resulting from this project and utilize the ideas and enthusiasm of the next generation of seismic engineers.”

Schafer added that graduate student Kara Peterman from The Johns Hopkins University is on-site at the University at Buffalo Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL), and is providing updates on the construction of the structure and blog entries at

Project Background
The award is the result of the National Science Foundation (NSF) 09-524 program solicitation for the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) Research (NEESR) competition. The title of the project is “NEES-CR: Enabling Performance-Based Seismic Design of Multi-Story Cold-Formed Steel Structures.”

The analysis and initial testing for the project began in late 2010 and took place at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Texas. The focus has now moved to the University at Buffalo, where construction is underway on the two-story test building. An advance team is setting up equipment and monitoring the construction progress. Full-scale shake-table testing is expected to take place in the summer.

For More Information
For information on the project, ongoing research updates, a live video of the construction process and informational blogs from JHU graduate student Kara Peterman, visit the CFS-NEES website at

For information on the University at Buffalo’s Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation
Laboratory (SEESL), visit

For more information on any of the project sponsors, contact the following representatives:

Steel Industry Sponsors:  AISI, Debbie Bennett,; Bentley Systems, Incorporated, Santanu Das,; ClarkDietrich Building Systems, Michael Clark,; Devco Engineering, Inc., Rob Madsen,; DSi Engineering, Don Allen,; Mader Construction Company, Inc., Kevin Biddle,; Simpson Strong-Tie Company Inc., Randy Daudet,; Steel Framing Industry Association, Larry Williams,; Steel Stud Manufacturers Association, Rahim Zadeh,

Universities: The Johns Hopkins University, Phil Sneiderman,; Bucknell University, Steve Buonopane,; McGill University, Prof. Colin Rogers,; University at Buffalo, Cory Nealon,; University of North Texas, Prof. Cheng Yu,; Virginia Tech University, Prof. Cris Moen,

AISI serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 25 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 124 associate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry. AISI's member companies represent approximately over three quarters of both U.S. and North American steel capacity. For more news about steel and its applications, view AISI’s Web site at

Debbie Bennett
Tel: 202.452.7179

Lisa Harrison
Tel: 202.452.7115