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Peterman Wins Prestigious ASCE Norman Medal for Definitive Paper on Seismic Responses of a Full-Scale Cold-Formed Steel-Framed Building

Kara Peterman

Kara Peterman

Assistant Professor Kara Peterman of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department has won the prominent Norman Medal, the highest honor granted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for a technical paper that "makes a definitive contribution to engineering science." As CEE Department Head Richard Palmer said about her accomplishment, “I congratulate Dr. Peterman on the outstanding award. ASCE has been giving it for over 100 years, so that puts her in very, very good company.”

Peterman was the lead author on the paper – titled “Experimental Seismic Response of a Full-Scale Cold-Formed Steel-Framed Building. I: System-Level Response” – which described research performed while she was a graduate research assistant at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The paper was published in the ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering in December of 2016.

Peterman explained that “This paper detailed system-level results for a large shake-table testing campaign of two full-scale cold-formed steel buildings. This work was the first to examine how cold-formed steel building structures perform under earthquakes and further demonstrated that existing design specifications are adequate. The buildings ultimately survived severe ground motions with no structural damage and only minor damage to nonstructural components and cladding.”

As Peterman added, “The work also demonstrated that the structural components designated to resist seismic forces actually share and distribute these forces across the entire building system, and that behavior can only be characterized by considering the complete building system.”

In addition, the experiments described in this paper were the first tests of a cold-formed steel-framed building.

Peterman explained in her paper that the use of cold-formed steel in building construction has seen significant growth in the last 20 years. The dominant growth has been in the use of cold-formed steel framing for interior partition walls and exterior curtain walls. Complementary to these non-load-bearing applications has been the use of cold-formed steel as the load-bearing system for both gravity and lateral loads in buildings; that is, the creation of a fully cold-formed steel-framed building.

As Peterman and her collaborators noted in the paper, “The seismic response of complete buildings framed from cold-formed steel is essentially unexplored, although significant work on the behavior of cold-formed steel members and subsystems, particularly shear walls, has been conducted.”

To address this knowledge gap, the paper and the project in general endeavored to characterize the system-level seismic response of these buildings. According to Peterman and her co-authors, the objective of their work was to detail the response of two full-scale cold-formed steel-framed buildings that were tested under a series of dynamic excitations (thus simulating earthquakes), testing at critical phases between construction phases to examine the impact of nonstructural components. The paper summarized the system-level response of the buildings and examined the interactions between structural and non-structural elements.

To simulate these earthquakes effectively, seismic testing was conducted using the twin shake tables at the University at Buffalo through the U.S. National Science Foundation George E. Brown Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation program.

The Norman Medal has been awarded annually since 1874 and recognizes a paper that makes a contribution to either practical or research aspects of engineering disciplines. The practical value of contribution and its impact on engineering practice are important considerations. (April 2018)