SEESL: A Versatile Large Scale Real Time Dynamic Testing Facility
The Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) was established in 1983 as a successor to the Structural Engineering Laboratory (SEL) at the University at Buffalo (UB). This new laboratory was equipped with an advanced 5-degree-of-freedom 50 ton capacity shake table. SEESL was the result of the vision of the late Professor Robert L. Ketter (former UB president), and Professor George C. Lee (former dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences). Under the leadership of the late Professor John Neal (SEESL’s first director), the laboratory was equipped with state-of-the-art hardware and instrumentation supporting structural dynamic research. The structural dynamic testing capability of SEESL led to the establishment of the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER), headquartered at UB and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in 1986.
For 20 years, SEESL was the flagship laboratory of NCEER and its successor MCEER. During that period, with sustained funding for management, operations and maintenance from NCEER (later MCEER, substituting “Multidisciplinary” for “National”), the laboratory facilitated advanced research and testing without the burden of laboratory operations and maintenance expenses. During this period, the first experiments utilizing active control devices and systems were performed. This resulted in a new field of research and led to the implementation of real-world applications in Japan. Similarly, pioneering experiments in advanced base isolation systems, experiments on passive and semi-active energy dissipation devices, and testing of retrofit solutions for structures made of reinforced concrete or steel, led to the development of a new field of earthquake resistant design – aseismic protective systems.
In 1996, Professor Michael C. Constantinou assumed responsibility as SEESL director and established a sustained program of service to industry, supporting the seismic qualification, research and development efforts of companies such as Taylor Devices, Enidine Corporation, Jarret Corporation, FPS Corporation, DIS Ltd., RJ Watson Inc., Moog Corporation, IBM Corporation and others. This program resulted in the development new products for the protection of structures and nonstructural equipment against seismic effects. SEESL continues to provide seismic qualification services to an expanding group of national and international industry clients.
In 1998, Professor Michel Bruneau (MCEER Director), Professor Andrei M. Reinhorn (CSEE Chair), and Professor Constantinou, envisioned a plan and laid the groundwork for the development of a new versatile facility that would combine real time testing and computational simulations. In 1999, with the assistance of the University at Buffalo’s administration, the team developed a successful proposal which resulted in the awarding of two NSF grants, establishing SEESL as one of 16 university-based laboratories comprising the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). These grants facilitated the expansion of SEESL to include the development and installation of new state-of-the-art equipment housed in a building expansion supported by the SUNY Construction Fund and the University at Buffalo.
In 2004, with the contributions of a large team of expert faculty and technical staff, SEESL completed the $21.2M expansion which added two new relocatable 6-degree-of-freedom 50 ton shake tables, advanced large scale dynamic and static actuators, a geotechnical laminar box, and networked controllers interfaced to a high speed local area network which supported the development and implementation of a unique capability involving integrated physical and computational simulations. Operations and maintenance funding was provided for 10 years by NSF through the NEES award.
Since the termination of the NSF-NEES program in 2014, SEESL offers testing services for industry clients, research sponsors (both domestic and international) and CSEE department-funded instructional and research initiatives. The combined support for the management, operation, and maintenance of the facility, with funding from industry clients, research sponsors and CSEE, allows SEESL to continue as a leader in the field of earthquake engineering and simulation.