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Maui Homes structure will get a good shaking


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POSTED: Thursday, May 07, 2009

Maui Homes USA LLC is the only Hawaii company participating in large-scale earthquake tests in Japan, funded by U.S. government grants.

The company is building a seven-story, 23-unit wooden apartment building for the tests between July 1 and July 20, according to Maui Homes owner David Clyne. The building is not intended to open for residential purposes.

The goal of the tests is to increase the maximum height of structures that can be built using wood, "which is cheaper than concrete or steel" and "architecturally it is much nicer to build with wood," Clyne said.

Changes can be made more easily in wood construction and it is a sustainable building material.

"It is weaker than steel or concrete," he said, but "Simpson Strong-Tie, a hardware manufacturer, has come up with hardware that will hold a six- or seven-story wood structure together very safely in a large earthquake," according to computer modeling, said Clyne.

Tennessee-based LP Building Products is supplying its SolidStart I-Joists and Laminated Veneer Lumber for the construction, which began in February at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Miki City, Japan.

The center is home to the world's largest earthquake shake table, which "can simulate any earthquake that's ever taken place, exactly the way it happened," Clyne said.

The shake table is 40 feet by 60 feet, and the Maui Homes building measures 39 1/2 feet by 59 1/2 feet.

"We literally take up the entire table. ... Our building will be the largest building they've ever tested," he said.

Maui Homes is a licensed general contractor in Hawaii and Japan. Its Japan office has four full-time employees. Its 11 journeyman carpenters are all working on the building.

"We're going to have two or three guys from the U.S. help us with the drywall," said Clyne.

The building is to be finished by June 22 for its move onto the shake table.

The center has "two 400-ton cranes ... and they're going to pick up our building and they're going to move it and set it on the earthquake table," Clyne said.

The Discovery Channel is planning a two-hour prime-time special on the building move and testing. The History Channel and Guinness Book of World Records officials are expected to be among the media personnel on hand to record the events.

The Maui Homes building will be subjected to six different earthquake re-creations, culminating in the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake in California in 1994, which caused widespread damage, at least 60 deaths and thousands of injuries.

The so-called NEESWood Capstone Tests are the result of collaboration between five universities using a $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. However, "We're actually looking for some more sponsors; we're short on funding," Clyne said.