Shake Test at UNR

In 2005, Pakistan experienced a 7.6 magnitude earthquake. 100,000 people were killed, and 3.3 million were left homeless. That inspired one local engineer to put her expertise to work rebuilding in poor rural areas. Truckee resident Darcy Donovan is experienced in building with what some would call unconventional materials. That’s why she thought it made perfect sense to rebuild using straw bales, fishnet and plaster to create homes in rural Pakistan.

She says the materials are inexpensive, readily available and 80% more energy efficient than conventional building materials. With the continued threat of earthquakes, there were some concerns about the stability of a straw structure. That’s why Donovan and a team of engineers conducted "shake test" at UNR Friday morning.

The primary concern was how the building was fastened together, and where the structure would show signs of stress. A full-scale 14 by 14 foot straw house was constructed on a hydraulic platform at the school’s Large Structures Laboratory. The building was subjected to 200% more acceleration/shaking than the Northridge quake of 1994. The straw house survived the shaking and remained structurally sound. Donovan says she’s excited about the outcome, and the team is considering more tests in the future.

The team hopes to refine building techniques and reduce costs so the process can be used to help create safe efficient housing in more areas around the world. Donovan is the founder of Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building or PAKSBAB, whose mission is to adapt and apply straw bale building methods. For more information about the organization, or to find out how you can help please click on the link below.

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