Brian Olson

Civil Engineering

Brian Olson’s advice to future researchers is to find a project you enjoy, one that will keep you motivated throughout the life of your project. In keeping with his own advice, Brian became involved in this project: the design and testing of new bracing elements for suspended piping systems—elements that are better designed for withstanding seismic stresses, such as those applied in an earthquake. After receiving his B.S. degree, he started working with a consulting structural engineering firm, and he intends to pursue his Professional Engineer’s license and a master’s degree. Brian is also an avid fencer and has been eligible to attend the Summer National Champion-ships two years in a row. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Suspended piping systems are vulnerable to large displacements and accelerations resulting from seismic loading. Rigid bracing can accommodate seismic loads, but increased stiffness may result in larger forces, which can cause system failure. In this study, a special bracing element was designed to accommodate the seismic load, while leaving enough flexibility in the system for the resulting displacements. A no-hub cast-iron drain pipe was tested and analyzed under the effects of different simulated floor level accelerations. Connections were tested to establish an acceptable level of displacement, and to measure the force associated with this displacement. A preliminary tension-compression (“double”) spring brace design was tested and compared with test results from a rigid-braced system and an unbraced system. Two different springs were tested and compared to determine brace performance with changing system stiffness. For this study, only transverse loading of the pipe was considered. The results show that increasing stiffness generally reduced the displacement and increased acceleration experienced by the braced section of pipe. These results substantiate the potential use of double spring designs to mitigate seismic demands on suspended piping systems. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Tara C. Hutchinson

Henry Samueli 
School of Engineering

Brian’s research touches on a subject area that has received limited attention by the earthquake research community. Namely, he focused on developing a mechanism for reducing seismic demands to suspended piping systems. Damage to piping systems during past seismic events has resulted in closure and eventual loss of entire structures, due to loss of functionality or extensive interior building water damage. Brian’s solution for minimizing these effects is simple enough to be implemented quickly in the field, yet reliable enough to assure the response of these particular elements will be reduced during the next strong earthquake. His research methodology is well validated with component tests (to design the bracing solution) and shake table tests, using measured ground motions and a model suspended piping system. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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