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Protecting Our Infrastructure Against Natural and Man-Made Hazards

Frieder Seible

Event Details:

Thursday, May 10, 2007
4:15pm - 6:15pm PDT
Extending Structure and Architecture - Studies in Structural Topology

The dependence on the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, water supply pipelines/aqueducts, ports and harbors, etc., is an integral part of our day-to-day life and so ingrained in our culture that we are mostly unaware of its existence as long as functionality is provided. The aging of our structures, natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, and fires, as well as man-made disasters such as terrorist attacks and accidents, threaten the functionality of our physical infrastructure and extraordinary expenditures are required to just maintain the status quo. While advances will come in the form of new materials, new structural design and rehabilitation concepts and systems, the major breakthrough will come from a cyberinfrastructure coupled with our physical infrastructure, consisting of distributed multi-use sensor nets, wireless and high speed networks, fully searchable data bases, and modeling/performance simulations which provide the user with on-line infrastructure management tools.

From a structural engineering perspective, natural and man-made hazards, e.g. earthquakes and bomb blasts, can cause local structural damage, and in the absence of redundancy, progressive structural collapse. Research has shown that seismic design and retrofit concepts, e.g. confinement in columns, can go a long way to also harden structures against air blast loadings, and redundancy in a structural system can prevent progressive structural collapse for either load case. Thus, modern structural design needs to incorporate a multi-hazard risk assessment and hazard mitigation strategy based on a comprehensive performance assessment of the entire structural system’s response to all critical loads. To accomplish this, validated models and simulations of the performance of complex systems need to be developed, fully database-assisted to assess the most likely consequences of structural performance/non-performance. Validation of these simulation tools, in turn, requires large or full-scale structural testing that is representative of actual damage patterns and failure modes, as well as realistic loading patterns and rates.

Frieder Seible is the Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and oversees strategic planning and operations, School-wide research and educations initiatives, academic affairs, and UCSD-wide cooperative programs. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is the Walter J. Zable Professor of Engineering and the Eric and Johanna Reissner Chair in Applied Mechanics and Structural Engineering. Seible is the chair of the California Department of Transportation Seismic Advisory Board, and has served on or led national and international committees on bridge design and retrofit for earthquake safety. He serves as a structural engineering consultant on many of the world's long-span bridges. Seible has published more than 500 papers and technical reports, mainly related to seismic design of bridges and buildings as well as blast resistent design of critical structures. 

He received a Dpl. Ing. from the University of Stuttgart, a M.Sc. from the University of Calgary, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, all in civil engineering. Seible joined UCSD in 1983, and served as founding chair of the Department of Structural Engineerng from 1995 until 2001. He was appointed Dean of the Jacobs School in 2003.

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