Job Corps bricklaying students assist UB in testing buildings for earthquake resilience

Provided photos: (Left) The bricklaying trades class at Iroquois Job Corps work on a building at the University of Buffalo to test the strength of reinforced brick masonry in the event of an earthquake. (Right) This 10-foot brick wall was built last fall by masonry students at Iroquois Job Corps in the Structural and Earthquake Engineering Simulation Laboratory at UB. It is the largest ever constructed on a shake table in the United States.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 24 February 2023 at 10:12 am

MEDINA – Since the summer of 2022, Iroquois Job Corps Center’s bricklaying trade has been assisting the University of Buffalo’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering on a significant research project on improving the strength of unreinforced brick masonry buildings in the event of a seismic activity.

The project was funded by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, according to information from Jen Barr, senior administrative assistant at Job Corps.

In phase one of the project, Job Corps students helped in the construction of five multi-wythe five-foot tall walls in UB’s Structural and Earthquake Engineering Simulation Laboratory, which were tested last fall.

But their most important contribution, according to Barr, was to help plan and construct a single-story unreinforced masonry building which UB’s principle investigator Andreas Stavridis said is the “largest structure of this type ever tested on a shake table in the United States.

On its website, UB states the importance of the work. Buildings made of unreinforced masonry are known to be vulnerable to earthquakes, but often are used for residences and critical infrastructure, including schools and fire departments, UB writes.

Hence, this research project addresses an urgent national need, as such vulnerable buildings can be found in downtown areas of cities throughout the United States, including areas of high seismic risk.

The test structure will be instrumented with an array of 160 sensors and cameras and will be subjected to a sequence of bi-directional ground motions.

In a thank-you letter to Job Corps’ instructors Robert Kelichner and Lino Cometto and their students, Stavridis expressed gratitude on behalf of the University and invited the class back in March to attend the shake table tests. The results will be shared with the class, which will likely be called on again for future projects, Barr said.