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Testing Tsunami Loads in the Wake of Tohoku

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Yurly Mikhaylov headshotCivil and environmental engineering scholar Yuriy Mikhaylov’s research on tsunami-resistant structures is more important than ever given the destruction of the 2011 devastating tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

Mikhaylov became interested in design of structures during his undergraduate studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Initially interested in structural dynamics and how the structures behave under seismic loading, he was persuaded to pursue work on tsunami loading on coastal structures. “I found the proposal interesting because it meant that I would not have to spend countless hours in a laboratory analyzing strings of numbers that may or may not be useful,” recalls Mikhaylov. He designed six prototypical buildings (per the International Building Code 2006) in several locations of varying seismicity and soil types. The buildings will be subjected to tsunami loads in modeling studies that consider eight kinds of forces, including height and velocity of waves and debris damming, to analyze the behavior of the structures. The goal is to determine how tsunami-resistant structures are per the current building code or, if they aren’t, figure out what would make them so.

Mikhaylov and his advisor analyzed video footage and physical evidence from the 2011 tsunami to calculate tsunami load. Their research will indicate what can be expected if a similar event were to occur on the west coast of the United States. Officials can then incorporate guidelines for tsunami-resistant design into building codes.