Wassim Ghannoum, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has received a nearly $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a new generation of computer simulation models that will characterize the impact of severe earthquake conditions on reinforced concrete structures.
The project will be conducted in conjunction with the NIST’s Disaster Resilience Grants Research Program, which supports research aimed at advancing the principles of resilience in building design and building codes and standards.
“This work is a prime example of the creative top-tier research that UTSA strives for,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering. “This has the potential to have a tremendous impact on the lives of people living in our nation’s cities and to improve the way we approach construction projects.”
Ghannoum’s work focuses on concrete columns that are used in bridges, apartment buildings and office structures. If their resilience in a seismic event is subpar, the result could be a massive loss of life and crippling costs for the community.
“My plan is to create simulation models that will pave the way for a new generation of tools,” Ghannoum said. “These tools will provide engineers with critical engineering data to make more precise decisions that could prevent structures from crumbling under seismic pressure.”
Additionally, Ghannoum plans to distribute his newly developed simulation tools to the structural engineering community through open-source software, which means the research will be instrumental in reducing the building rehabilitation costs that are associated with strengthening the structural integrity of concrete buildings.
“Dr. Ghannoum’s concrete resilience research is not only vital, but it also fits into the Smart Cities model, a worldwide effort in which UTSA is involved,” said Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA interim vice president for research. “Public institutions, government entities and private organizations are using data and technology to advance and refine the functionality of a city to improve the livability for all its residents.”
Ghannoum is just one of many UTSA researchers participating in efforts to transform American urban centers into “smart cities,” which refers to cities that serve their populations through a new wave of sensors, meters, data collection and data processing tools. Ghannoum’s software is another step toward creating smarter buildings that are better at protecting their inhabitants.
Part of Ghannoum’s research will be conducted in UTSA’s new large-scale structural testing facility, a 15,000-square foot, $10 million building which will support a wide array of civil engineering research initiatives. The facility will provide a venue were civil engineers can test structural systems, such as concrete buildings, in a large and realistic setting. It is slated for completion in 2019.
The UTSA Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is one of the university’s most innovative departments, with researchers aiding in work to prevent landslides, create drinkable water from rainfall, and harvest energy from hot pavement among many other top-tier initiatives.
UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.