Wood lab simulates natural disaster on 32-foot-long wall

Dan Dolan, a WSU professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Scott Lewis, research associate at the Wood Materials and Engineering Lab, are working with other wood lab associates to construct a 32-foot-long wall, which will be knocked down at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 7 during a test simulating natural disasters’ effects on buildings.

A filmmaking crew will film the simulation as part of an hour-long documentary titled “Disaster Resistant Homes,” which is set to air on PBS in December. The test will also be broadcast by WSU Extension to show what is going on at the wood lab.

“The test will quantify strength and displacement capacities,” said Dolan. The simulation will put stress on the wall in a cyclical motion, which will more accurately simulate what buildings endure during natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

Additionally, the wall is being constructed with wood plastic composites, which make the building three times stronger than if using more traditional materials. The composite material is being used to show how wall structures can be improved without raising costs, Dolan said.