Two Chico State grads developing earthquake software, survey Napa damage

Aug 26, 2014 7:53 PM by Brian Johnson

Two Chico State graduates will use information they gathered in Napa after the earthquake to develop a software program that analyzes earthquake damage and loss.

They're hoping it will be used nationwide for homeowners, building owners, engineers, and maybe even for insurance companies to determine the cost of insuring those in earthquake prone-areas.

And while earthquake insurance may be expensive, you might call this in-the-works software a form of insurance in its own right.

Soon, building owners and engineers may be able to more precisely determine the damage their building will sustain after an earthquake.

A new software program, called SP3, is being developed by two Chico State grads looks beyond whether or not a building will collapse, but the cost of the damage in the months that follow.

"What's the damage to my partition walls?" said software developer Dustin Cook. "What's the damage to my HVAC system? And all these different aspects that are in a building. So we can look at ok what's the cost of repairing that, or how much time will your building be down for?"

That's why when Napa happened, Cook and his research partner Katie Fitzgerald jumped at the opportunity to expand on that research.

"I think that was probably the highest concentration of engineers in California on Sunday, a lot of engineers flocked to Napa," Fitzgerald said.

"Everything was shut down," said Cook. There was no business going on. And so that's a huge setback. So we're trying to look at every aspect of the building so you can really help engineers design buildings better."
Cook said he most damage they saw was with unreinforced masonry buildings, otherwise known as brick buildings.
He said downtown Napa looks a lot like downtown Chico.
"If we were ever to get a major earthquake in Chico, we'd see a lot of damage to those buildings in downtown Chico..." Cook said.

Or, on campus.

Cook said while the brick that makes up Kendall hall is beautiful, it's one of those unreinforced structures he's concerned about. Whereas there's less concern at Laxson Auditorium, which Fitzgerald said was retrofitted 15 years ago. Though Cook and Fitzgerald said retrofitting is always expensive.

But that's what the software will help with, answering questions like: do existing buildings need a retrofit?
And what can be done to minimize the risk of big damage and loss with new buildings?

All the while, Fitzgerald said it will cut the time it typically takes to do this kind of analysis.
"So this software aims to take that time down to a couple of hours so it can happen for more buildings," Fitzgerald said.

For homeowners, they recommend simply have things anchored inside the home, given the majority of injuries in Napa came from objects falling on people.


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