Iowa State’s Laflamme to innovate structural cladding

Simon Laflamme, assistant professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering
Simon Laflamme, assistant professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering

Simon Laflamme, assistant professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering, will conduct a nationally funded research project on repurposing a building’s architectural envelope to one that structurally protects it from natural and manmade hazards.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Laflamme $500,000, in partnership with Lehigh University professors James Ricles and Spencer Quiel, to pursue research on semi-active controlled cladding panels for multi-hazard resilient buildings. The grant is effective June 1, 2015, and will run through May 31, 2018. Grant funds will go toward graduate students, supplies and equipment, large-scale testing, and results dissemination.

Cladding, in the construction industry, is traditionally used for aesthetics or to protect a building’s occupants from outside elements. This architectural skin has yet to serve a structural purpose, but Laflamme and his team will innovate this system. “The goal of this research is to rethink cladding systems as multi-functional structural units that protect the structure against multiple hazards, including seismic, wind, and blast events,” Laflamme said.

He and his research team will develop computational simulation of the response of a prototype semi-active damping device, installed between the cladding and structural frame, to the varying loading frequencies and intensities from multiple hazards. The device is termed “semi-active” because of its capacity to alter its mechanical properties upon the application of external power. This provides dramatically enhanced performance. These mechanisms have the potential to reduce occupant motion sickness and, for significant hazards, structural damage.

Read more about Dr. Laflamme’s research and other Iowa State structural engineering research: http://www.ccee.iastate.edu/research/structures.