Professor heads effort to reduce impact of soil damage from earthquakes
Edward Kavazanjian has been named chair of a National Research Council (NRC) committee that will oversee an extensive study, titled State of the Art and Practice in Earthquake Induced Soil Liquefaction Assessment.
Kavazanjian is a professor of geotechnical engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is also senior scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.
The NRC is the research arm of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. The council conducts studies to guide government decision-making on public policy, public understanding and promotion of knowledge in science, engineering, technology and health.
Liquefaction, which reduces the strength and stiffness of soil, is a major source of damage done by earthquakes to large structures – particularly bridges, ports and harbors, residential and commercial buildings, and embankments.
The study will address future directions for research and engineering practices to reduce uncertainty in current liquefaction methods and to develop more accurate tools for assessing liquefaction and its consequences.
The study committee is scheduled to conduct an information-gathering workshop, with expected attendance of 90 researchers and practicing engineers from throughout the United States and abroad, at ASU’s Tempe campus on March 10 and 11.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are among sponsors of the study.
Major ports on the West Coast, as well as the Port of Charleston on the Atlantic coast and ports on the Mississippi River, are particularly susceptible to earthquake-induced soil liquefaction, Kavazanjian says.
Ports in Oakland and San Francisco were seriously damaged by liquefaction in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and 44 of 45 berths in the Port of Kobe in Japan were put out of service due to liquefaction by an earthquake in 1995.
“The magnitude 6.3 Christchurch (New Zealand) earthquake of February 2011 dramatically re-emphasized the importance of this phenomena. More than 8,000 homes and the entire central business district of Christchurch had to be abandoned as a result of liquefaction by this mid-sized earthquake,” Kavazanjian explains.
Kavazanjian, who earlier this year was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, previously served on two NRC study committees – the committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering for the New Millennium in 2004 and the committee on Assessment of the Performance of Engineered Barriers in 2006.
In December, he will complete terms as a member of the NRC Board of Earth Sciences and Resources and as chair of the board’s Geological and Geotechnical Engineering standing committee.
Kavazanjian is past president of the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers and currently serves on the Transportation Research Board Committee on Seismic Design and Performance of Bridges as chair of its GeoSeismic subcommittee.
He is the lead author of a federal highway guidance document on geotechnical earthquake engineering and is the lead instructor for the National Highway Institute training course on the same subject.
Kavazanjian is also the principal investigator on three current National Science Foundation research projects on geotechnical earthquake engineering. One project is focusing on employing subsurface microbial processes to reduce the potential for earthquake-induced liquefaction. The others are a collaborative project with researchers at Stanford University and Bucknell University on the post-liquefaction strength of soil, and a project to design landfill liner systems to withstand being shaken by earthquakes.
Written by Aimey Doolittle and Joe Kullman