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Creating Sustainable Buildings

May 24, 2012

CEE Chair & Professor, Jerome Hajjar, has received a $250K NSF grant to develop a "Design for Deconstruction" method for building construction by creating sustainable steel structures. On August 9, 2012 at 12:20-1:00, his work will be featured on WGBH's Innovation Hub. Prof. Hajjar and his co-investigator on the project, Mark Webster, a structural engineer at Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger, Inc., will conduct the research at the new Laboratory for Structural Testing of Resilient and Sustainable Systems, or STReSS lab, at the George J. Kostas Institute for Homeland Security in Burlington, Mass.


Source: News @ Northeastern

When North­eastern pro­fessor Jerry Hajjar thinks about the future of building design, he envi­sions a booming new industry that hinges on sus­tain­ability. This means dis­man­tling aging build­ings and reusing the com­po­nents in new struc­tures, rather than lev­eling the build­ings and starting from scratch.

“The basic con­cept is this: At the end of the useful life of a building, instead of demol­ishing it and recy­cling the mate­rials, we think about whether we can decon­struct it and refab­ri­cate,” said Hajjar, chair of the Depart­ment of Civil and Envi­ron­mental Engi­neering.

Hajjar has teamed with Mark Web­ster, a struc­tural engi­neer at the firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, to explore this new approach to building design with a $250,000 grant they recently received from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion to begin their work.

It’s called design for deconstruction.

Jerry Hajjar

“The pri­mary part of a steel building that’s not decon­structable is the com­posite con­crete floor slab, which is poured inte­grally with the steel girders on which it sits,” Hajjar said. But his team pro­poses the use of new tech­nolo­gies such as remov­able clamps instead. For example, pre­cast con­crete planks could sit on top of the steel girders, held in place with clamps, he explained.

Testing whether such decon­structable building designs can with­stand extreme forces will be done in the new Lab­o­ra­tory for Struc­tural Testing of Resilient and Sus­tain­able Sys­tems, or STReSS lab, at the George J. Kostas Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity in Burlington, Mass.

The lab is the first of its kind in the Boston region. “It’s a pow­erful lab,” said Hajjar. More than 400 tie-​​down anchors span the 2,000-square-foot “strong-​​floor,” each capable of with­standing 200,000 pounds of force.

The design-​​for-​​deconstruction project rep­re­sents a new direc­tion for Hajjar’s work, which has tra­di­tion­ally focused on the struc­tural impact earth­quakes and other extreme events have on steel build­ings, bridges and other infrastructure.

“I prefer to think of it as aug­menting our earth­quake research,” he said. “We’ve been devel­oping new sys­tems to make struc­tures safer, more eco­nom­ical and more secure. A long overdue com­po­nent for struc­tural engi­neering is sustainability.”

To that end, Hajjar’s lab is also looking at inte­grating new mate­rials — like steel foam — into building design that can improve energy effi­ciency. If build­ings were designed with sus­tain­ability in mind — not just from an archi­tec­tural per­spec­tive but also the engi­neering per­spec­tive — their impact on the envi­ron­ment could be sig­nif­i­cantly reduced, he said.