An $18 million expansion at University of Nevada Reno marked a milestone Thursday with a "topping-out" ceremony. A small crowd celebrating the placement of a 30-ton, 90-foot-long bridge crane. As it swings into place, it signifies the completion of the steel framework on the University's new earthquake lab.
It's one of two cranes which will allow the school to conduct experiments on a level never before attempted. "We can lift 60 ton specimens and move them on to the shake tables," says Ian Buckle, director of the Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research. "Its very important to be able to do that in a lab like this and many other laboratories in the united states don't have this capacity." In a building next door, the university already conducts earthquake simulations on what they call shake tables. Most tests use scale models, but the bigger lab will give more accurate results because stress tests can be done at full scale.
In addition to providing learning opportunities for students, the lab does research for government and private sector agencies bringing in more than $38-million dollars for Northern Nevada over the past ten years.
Currently, the project is only about 45% complete. It's slated to finish next September, allowing local students and engineers to improve earthquake safety and understanding world wide.