UTA Researcher Aims to Develop Tool to Elevate Coastal Homes

Nur Yazdani, a civil engineering professor at University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Photo courtesy of UTA.Nur Yazdani, a professor of civil engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) (Arlington, Texas, USA), is working to build a web-based tool that will help architects and contractors design home slab elevations that protect homes in storm- and flood-prone areas.

To facilitate development of this web-based tool, Yazdani’s research project received a two-year $450,000 award from the Texas Sea Grant program (College Station, Texas, USA), using funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We will use the knowledge we gain through our experimental work and theoretical modeling to develop a tool that will help people determine how to safely elevate their homes, evaluate safety in light of International Building Code provisions and find proper support beam-pier configurations,” says Yazdani. “It will eliminate guesswork and allow people to make informed decisions about a major investment in their homes.”

Construction codes in most Texas coastal areas call for newly built buildings to be elevated. However, elevating an existing home is not only be an expensive project—with costs exceeding $100,000 depending on the home’s size and location—but a potentially risky one as well. Raising the concrete slab foundations above the base flood level and placing them on pier-beam systems can cause cracks and other damage to the home and, in the worst-case scenario, even result in fatalities. 

To that end, Yazdani’s project with UTA involves building concrete slabs on pier-beams and monitoring them for cracking and failure. From there, a determination will be made as to where stress points are likely to develop and the distance at which pier-beams can be safely placed to create usable space underneath the home. In addition, Yazdani and his team will use gradually rising water to simulate flood conditions for the supported slabs.

Yazdani will also conduct experiments with externally applied carbon-fiber laminate to reinforce existing concrete home slabs, a technique he previously employed on concrete bridges. “Dr. Yazdani has successfully used carbon-fiber reinforced polymer, or CFRP, laminate to strengthen concrete bridges for several years, so it is exciting to see him using it in another application with so much potential,” says Ali Abolmaali, chair of UTA’s civil engineering department.

Based on the results garnered from his research, Yazdani plans to create a free, user-friendly decision-making software and guidance manual that he will be testing with communities collaborating on the research project, including Harris, Galveston, Aransas and San Patricio counties. “By creating a digital tool to aid stakeholders in making decisions based on realistic data, he could help coastal and inland communities become more resilient in the face of hurricanes and other major storms, lessening recovery time, property loss and the emotional and financial toll that those losses create,” adds Abolmaali.

Source: The University of Texas at Arlington, www.uta.edu.