Description: Professor Kevin Franke and his team are developing a simplified model to assess liquefaction hazards for earthquake damage prevention.
- Start: May 17, 2016
- End: November 30, 2018
- Sponsor: Utah Department of Transportation
- Principal Investigator: Kevin Franke
In 2016 alone, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program has recorded over 50 significant earthquakes around the world. In addition, a current study reported by the USGS suggests that the Wasatch Front has an almost 50% chance of encountering an earthquake with at least a 6.75 magnitude in the next 50 years. Kevin Franke, a Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, is conducting research on a specific effect of earthquakes: liquefaction. Liquefaction is the loosening of saturated soils that causes the ground to lose its strength, resulting in massive damage to buildings and other structures.
Previously, Professor Franke has been a part of the development of performance-based assessments of liquefaction triggering and other hazards. Such assessments provide engineers with tools to design construction plans with certain hazard factors, accounting for liquefaction during the construction of a structure in the hope of decreasing damage caused by future earthquakes. However, these assessments are very complicated and thus unusable by the average engineer. In this project, Professor Franke and his research team will develop a simplified model of performance-based assessments for use by geotechnical engineers.
To create simplified design procedures, the researchers will base their work off previously developed models which incorporate the Cone Penetration Test (CPT). Simply put, the CPT is a test which analyzes characteristics of soil by inserting a rod with a cone into the soil, with the tip facing down. The unique shape of the cone tip delineates stratigraphic soil layers. This test increases the accuracy of the soil analysis, in comparison to the Standard Penetration Test (SPT).
After development of the simplified assessment, researchers will validate its performance by comparing its results to full assessment measures to ensure accuracy and to highlight and correct any errors. Previous projects to develop simplified assessments for hazard evaluation provide accurate comparisons to the full hazard evaluation assessment.
As part of the project, Professor Franke and his research team will also produce maps of hazard reference values for several states that are participating in the study, including Utah. These maps create estimates of liquefaction hazards for location-specific soil conditions. They will aid engineers and give them hazard references for several time return periods based on the soil conditions.
Performance-based assessments are crucial to the geotechnical field, so that engineers can rely on a consistent and risk-based design in determining an adequate level of hazard. The simplified tool developed in this research will allow engineers to use these techniques regularly and in everyday situations. The methods produced will be made compatible with current safety codes, and the researchers anticipate that their findings will be presented at well-known geotechnical conventions, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meetings.