Building Vibrations Allow Real Time Monitoring

Oral Buyukozturk, a professor at MIT, and his team are working to develop smart buildings that can sense vibrations and monitor themselves for internal signs of damage or mechanical stress in real time.

“This provides continuous monitoring and a database that would be like a health book for the building, as a function of time, much like a person’s changing blood pressure with age,” said Buyukozturk.

The structural sensor system has been tested on a building constructed in 1963 of reinforced concrete. 36 accelerometers – sensors that record vibrations and movements – were installed and a virtual avatar of the building was created. Using this “computer twin”, the researchers will be able to create situations, such as a truck passing, to predict how the building’s structure will react.

“But the model uses a lot of assumptions about the building’s material, its geometry, the thickness of its elements, et cetera, which may not correspond exactly to the structure,” Buyukozturk said.

In order to better understand the building’s response to ambient vibrations, the team developed a new method to examine how a vibration’s pattern changes as it travels from the ground level to the roof. They can observe how the building responds to a truck passing at ground level, then track the path of the building’s response both horizontally and vertically throughout.

“Outfitted with sensors and central processing algorithms, those buildings will become intelligent, and will feel their own health in real time and possibly be resilient to extreme events,” said lead author Hao Sun.