Posts Tagged: Structural Engineering

Disaster-proof: Major CivMin lab upgrade lets engineers design structures that can better withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis

Funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation will be used to acquire an adjustable,
multi-dimensional loading module and other equipment for the Structural Testing Facility


A new adjustable multi-dimensional (AMD) loading system will soon be added to U of T Engineering’s Structural Testing Facility. (Image: Myron Zhong)

An upgraded facility at U of T Engineering — one that is unique in the world — will let engineers test next-generation infrastructure designed to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes.

A grant announced today from CFI’s Innovation Fund 2020 will fund a suite of new tools and equipment to be housed within U of T Engineering’s existing Structural Testing Facility. They will be used to design everything from elevated highways to high-rise residential buildings to nuclear power plants, including replacements for legacy structures across North America.

“Much of our infrastructure is decades old and needs to be replaced,” says Professor Constantin Christopoulos (CivMin), the project leader and Canada Research Chair in Seismic Resilience of Infrastructure.

“The scientific and engineering communities, along with governments and the private sector, are becoming increasingly aware of the inherent vulnerability of our infrastructure. We also need to design new structures to address new pressures, such as a rapidly growing Canadian population, and more frequent extreme weather scenarios due to a changing climate.”

The centrepiece of this new development is the world’s first fully movable, adjustable multidirectional, large-scale and large-capacity loading frame.

“This unique piece of equipment will allow structural elements and structural systems to be tested under more realistic loading conditions,” says Christopoulos. “We’ll be able to better simulate the complex effects of extreme loading events, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or tsunamis.”

The adjustable, multi-dimensional loading module will be capable of applying up to a total of 2,000 tonnes of force in six translational and rotational directions for specimens of up to eight metres tall and thirty metres long.

The project will also include new state-of-the-art sensing equipment and the redesign of 500 square metres of lab space. Construction is expected to begin in 2022.

To make full use of it, Christopoulos will be working with a large team of experts from within and beyond U of T Engineering. Project partners include U of T Engineering professors Oh-Sung KwonEvan BentzOya Mercan and Jeffrey Packer (all CivMin). This team is also collaborating with a team of structural engineering and large-scale testing experts at other leading North American facilities to develop, commission and use this unique equipment. Collaborating institutions include:

  • Western University’s WindEEE and Boundary Layer Wind Tunnels
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Sherbrooke
  • Polytechnique Montreal
  • University of Illinois

Once completed, the new facility will be used for research by 10 professors from U of T and their national and international collaborators. It is also expected that it will allow for dozens of unique graduate student research projects and industry tests every year once it is fully operational.

Together this team will be able to carry out a technique known as “distributed hybrid simulations.” This means that full-scale portions of real structures — such as concrete pillars or steel beams — will be tested simultaneously in each of these labs across North America.

By integrating all of these physical tests into a single numerical model, they can use the experimental feedback of each of the large-scale elements to more realistically simulate the response of the entire infrastructure system to extreme loading conditions. The data from the physical experiments will be integrated in real-time with models run using high-performance computers and the UT-SIM integration platform.

“This facility will enhance our capabilities not only here at U of T, and across Canada, but will position Canadian engineers as global leaders in the area of structural resilience” says Christopoulos. “It is a critical step toward designing the resilient cities of the future.”

By Tyler Irving

This article originally published on Engineering News

CivMin faculty and students garner CSCE recognition

CivMin professors and students honoured by CSCE: (top row L to R) Prof. Khander Habib, Prof. Doug Hooton, Prof. Jeffrey Packer with (bottom row L to R) graduate research students Jens Kuhn and YuJing Fan, and Prof. Frank Vecchio.

The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) announced its 2020 Honours, Awards and Fellowships, recognizing several CivMin faculty and students.

Among those recognized by the CSCE are Prof. Khander Habib, Prof.Doug Hooton, Prof. Jeffrey Packer, along with graduate students Jens Kuhn and YuJing Fan (CivE MASc 1T7), and Prof. Frank Vecchio.

Sandford Fleming Award
Prof. Khander Habib presented the Sandford Fleming Award for 2020. The award is presented annually to a member of the CSCE who has made particularly outstanding contributions to the development and practice of transportation engineering in Canada.

Habib has been a professor at the University of Toronto since 2010. Habib received his BSc. (2000) and MSc. (2002) degrees in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology. He received his Ph.D. (2007) from the University of Toronto. Before joining the University of Toronto, he served as a Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering of the University of Alberta (2007-2010). Habib received several awards including Eric Pass Award (Honorable mention) from the International Association of Travel Behaviour Research; Early Researcher Award from Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation; Minister’s Award for (transportation) Process Innovation from Alberta Ministry ofTransportation; Pyke Johnson Award and numerous best paper awards as well as certificates of appreciation from theTransportation Research Board (TRB) of US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine; Educational Achievement Award from the Transportation Association of Canada, Trottier Fellowship at the Institut de Energie Trottier in Montreal; Dean’s Merit Pool awards and Percy Edward Hart Professorship from the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University ofToronto. He serves editorial boards of several top-tire transportation journals and works as an editor of two journals. He is a member of TRB’s standing committees on transportation demand forecasting and travel behaviour analysis.

Areas of Expertise: Strategic transportation planning, travel demand modelling, travel survey methods, transport economics, transport policy, econometric choice modelling, emerging transportation technologies, and smart cities in the era of automated and transformative transportation (on-demand mobility, ride-sourcing and sharing economy).


Fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering
Prof. Doug Hooton is recognized as a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering 2020.

Robert Douglas Hooton is a Professor in the University ofToronto’s Department of Civil Engineering and holds the NSERC/ Cement Association of Canada Senior Industrial Research Chair in Concrete Durability and Sustainability. He received his BASc (1974) and MASc (1975) from University of Toronto and PhD (1981) from McMaster University. Dr. Hooton is a registered Professional Engineer in Ontario and in addition to being a member of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, he is a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. He is an Honorary member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI), and Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Concrete Technology (UK), Fellow of RILEM, Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, and Fellow of ASTM.

He received the Engineering Institute of Canada’s Julian C. Smith Medal (2016), the Ontario Professional Engineers Medal for Research and Development (2012), ACI’s Wason Research Medal (2014), as well as ACI’s R.E. Philleo (2013), and A.R. Anderson (2011) awards, and the CSA Award of Merit (1997). Well known as an expert on both Cementitious Materials and Concrete Durability, he has been active on over 40 standards, technical, and code committees in North America and Europe, holding a number of leadership positions on these committees. Several new standard test methods and building code changes related to concrete durability in Canada and the U.S.A. have been developed or championed by him based on the results of his research.


Casimir Gzowski Medal
Prof. Jeffrey Packer, with students Jens Kuhn and YuJing Fan, are awarded The Casimir Gzowski Medal for 2020 for their paper on Rectangular hollow section webs under transverse compression (cjce-2018-0485). Established by Sir Casimir in 1890, the Casimir Gzowski Medal is awarded annually for the best civil engineering paper in surveying, structural engineering or heavy construction.

Abstract: An investigation is presented into full-width, RHS X-connections subject to transverse compression, including the effect of a compressive or tensile chord preload. A re-evaluation of world-wide experimental tests on fullwidth X-connections revealed considerable inaccuracy with current design recommendations, as well as significant discrepancies between them. A finite element study was hence conducted to further investigate the behaviour of such connections. A critical value of the bearing length-to-chord height ratio was found, where yielding failure of the chord webs turns into buckling failure, and this has been implemented in the subsequent design recommendation. e proposed design procedure is based on 350 finite element results, covering a wide range of chord sidewall slenderness values, bearing length values and chord stress ratios, as well as against a screened data base of 125 experimental tests. The proposal is shown to offer excellent predictions and incorporates a simple reliability analysis.


A.B. Sanderson Award
Prof. Frank Vecchio, is presented the A.B. Sanderson Award for 2020. The award is presented to a member of the CSCE who has made particularly outstanding contributions to the development and practice of structural engineering in Canada.

Frank J. Vecchio, Ph.D., P.Eng., is Professor and Bahen/Tanenbaum Chair in Civil Engineering in the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering at the University ofToronto. He has been on Faculty since 1985. Dr. Vecchio received his doctorate from the University of Toronto (1981), where he also received his B.A.Sc. (1978) and M.Eng. (1979) degrees. Prior to joining the Faculty at the University ofToronto, he was employed as a research engineer at Ontario Hydro (1981-1985). He is a registered Professional Engineer in Ontario. His research interests relate to the development of improved analysis procedures for reinforced concrete structures, particularly for those that are shear-sensitive. Recent activities include the development of improved constitutive models and nonlinear finite element procedures, application to the assessment and forensic analysis of concrete structures, and analysis of damaged, repaired or rehabilitated structures. Additional interests include the modelling and assessment of fibre reinforced concrete (FRC) structures, structures rehabilitated with fibre reinforced polymers (FRP), and structures subjected to extreme loads including blast, impact, fire and earthquake. He is the author of over 120 technical papers in these areas.

Dr. Vecchio is a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (CSCE) and former recipient of the CSCE Whitman-Wright Award (2011) and Horst Leipholz Medal (2014), and the Ontario Professional Engineers Engineering Medal – Research and Development (2014). He continues to be an active member of several international technical societies and committees relating to the design and assessment of reinforced concrete structures.


From the CSCE’s 2020 Honours, Awards and Fellowships

Half a world away, but heading home for the holidays

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon displays his certificate for completing the Seoul Trail in Seoul, South Korea October 2020. (Photo courtesy Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon)

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon is coming home to Toronto this week, on Saturday, December 19, after a six-month research leave. “It has been a long six months,” shares Kwon. “I look forward to seeing my family in December and meeting my students in person after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The research leave was planned long before the current health crisis was known – it just added a few more twists. Like any other CivMin professors, he has been keeping in touch with the structural research students he supervises via video meetings. Teams chats are the new norm for just about everyone during the pandemic since in-person contact is strictly limited to lab work at U of T. The difference, however, is he’s nearly half a world away in Seoul, South Korea.

“Even though I spent six months in Korea, there has not been much difference in having meetings with my students. The only difference is the meeting time; it is either early in the morning or late in the evening due to the 14 hours of time difference.”

Since departing Toronto on June 19 for Seoul, Kwon has maintained regular contact with research students at both U of T and Seoul National University (SNU). He has spent his research leave in Korea to progress a few collaborative research projects there.

“Back in 2016, I hosted an international workshop at the University of Toronto, inviting researchers and professors from several research institutions in South Korea to promote international collaborations. Since then, we have developed a few research projects. Including myself, five professors in the Structures section have collaborated with or closely interacted with Korean researchers. In the past four years, three PhD students visited my group from Seoul National University. My graduate students spent 26 person-months at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institue (KAERI). I recruited one PDF from SNU, with another one joining in January 2021.”

One of Kwon’s primary research focuses is on developing realistic simulation methods for structures subjected to extreme loads such as earthquake, wind, and fire. Through the research collaborations of the institutions, his group can access unique testing facilities, such as a wind tunnel and fire testing facilities, not available at U of T.

He says, “During my stay, I have been co-supervising one graduate student and one PDF at SNU to implement the real-time aeroelastic hybrid simulation (RTAHS) method for bridge deck models in their wind tunnel facility. I co-supervised one Ph.D. student in the past four years on the development of deep neural network (DNN) models for nonlinear response predictions. The student will complete his doctoral degree soon. Also, during my stay in Korea, I have been developing a new project with KICT to run more conventional fire endurance tests and hybrid fire tests at their fire testing facility in 2021.”

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon (L) with the student and the PDF who are working on RTAHS of a bridge deck section model. Real-time aeroelastic hybrid simulation testing setup for a bridge deck section model at SNU. It is replicated from the design that Prof. Kwon’s group developed at U of T (Photo courtesy Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon)

Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon takes in the view on the Seoul Trail. (Photo courtesy Oh-Sung Kwon)

For personal recreation, as well as beneficial exercise, he has stayed active with regular hikes around Seoul on the well-known Seoul Trail. The 157 km trail winds up and down hilly terrain, providing a varied and sometimes challenging Saturday trek. Kwon began his ambitious sojourns in July and completed the final section October 31. Recognition, in the form of a certificate, allowed him to realize a lifelong goal.

A map of the Seoul Trail’s circuitous route around the city with Prof. Oh-Sung Kwon’s hike segments.

A planned break to see his family simply was not to be, as quarantine measures in both countries were found to be too restrictive. “Originally I was planning to go back to Toronto for two weeks in late September to spend Thanksgiving with my family. But I realized the two weeks of isolation upon return to South Korea were very strict. And, also, two weeks of quarantine in Toronto is also restrictive. In total I would need to spend one month in isolation if I travelled back and forth, so I decided to stay here and just leave at the end of my recess.”

Throughout the summer, and early fall, South Korea held COVID-19 at bay with extremely low case counts. Kwon recounts the open access to facilities, such as libraries, while everyone kept to wearing masks as a matter of course. “I think Korea flattened and reduced to the curve very quickly. I think a great example of taking control and I think there’s also in the country more of a personal feeling of responsibility, or obligation.”

The number of cases in all of South Korea, with a population of 52 million, is currently starkly better than even the lone province of Ontario (pop. 16 million) or the City of Toronto’s three million. “We see the third wave of COVID-19 situation in Korea with 451 new cases for today [November 30]. There are further restrictions imposed to a few businesses (bars, cafes, gyms, restaurants, etc.), but not as strict as in Toronto. For example, all restaurants are still open until 9 p.m.,” he says.

The relatively better situation is met with caution,”With greater population density, it can spread a lot quicker here, so we all have to be more careful.”

Kwon returns home to his wife and three children in Toronto, though he has enjoyed his time visiting extended family while back in South Korea, “I have a big family in Seoul. If we get together with my three sisters and their family, we have about 18-19 family members.”

During his time away from home there have been several notable academic recognitions:

Kwon reflects on his six-month research leave as an excellent opportunity for him to wrap up a few projects and develop a few more for the next few years.

By Phill Snel

Civil engineering team wins Troitsky Bridge Building Competition

Victorious U of T civil engineering students with the Troitsky 2020 trophy celebrate in Montreal. Front row (L to R): Camilo Dugand (team captain), Aidan Ashton, Kent Straky; back row (L to R): Sydney Ng, Naomi Tian, Fahd Mohammed.

” I would say it was one of the most fun weekends of my life.”
– Team Captain Camilo Dugand

A team of civil engineering students from the University of Toronto has won the 2020 Troitsky Bridge Building Competition. It is the first win for a U of T team since initiating entries four years ago.

Held annually at Concordia University in Montreal since 1984, this year’s event held over the February 29-March 1 weekend attracted 34 teams from 12 Canadian universities. U of T fielded five teams, with each constructing a bridge model made of only popsicle sticks, glue and floss. Testing was performed of each entry’s strength using a hydraulic press with the winning U of T entry withstanding 1.424 tonnes.

The victors, calling their team The Fellowship of the Bridge, was inspired by the Lord of the Rings movie “The Fellowship of the Ring” and the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, which Gandalf crushed in the movie.

The second-year civil engineering students Camilo Dugand (Captain), Aidan Ashton, Kent Straky, Naomi Tian, Sydney Ng and Fahd Mohammed came up with a design of a simply supported beam with an inverted T cross-section.

Besides the ability to take a load, scoring for the event is also based upon structural efficiency (maximum load divided

by the bridge weight), presentation score (to a panel of industry professionals and faculty) and team spirit. It was the load testing, however, that led to the team’s success, with Mohammed summing up with “I never felt that we were truly challenging for first place until crushing, when we saw our bridge hold the highest amount till that point.”

Beating out historical favourite, McMaster University (winners 2016-2018), Ashton recalls “I still kind of have to pinch myself when I think about it.”

Ng remarked, ” When we heard them call our team name it felt surreal, we all jumped up and immediately ran to hug each other, we were all beaming (haha PUN)  for the rest of the night.”

Tian echos the sentiment, “It was really satisfying to see our bridge hold up so much weight and to know our hard work paid off. If you’re into structural design and analysis, the construction process, and project management, this club provides all those experiences.”

Team captain Dugand made an offer to those interested in next year’s competition, “If you’re an engineering student with passion for structural design and looking for a really fun time with friends, as well as making new friend, in Montreal you should join Troitsky.”

Follow the Troitsky U of T adventures on Instagram.

To learn more about the competition, please visit the website at

By Phill Snel

Andrew Young is Donald Tong Scholarship winner

Andrew Young (CivE MASc candidate), at right, receives from DIALOG the 2019-2020 Donald Tong Graduate Scholarship in Structural Engineering at a ceremony in Toronto on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. In the photo with Young are (L to R): Daria Khachi, Principal at DIALOG; Sui Wa Chan (Aster), wife of Donald Tong; Jane Tong, daughter of Donald Tong; and Cameron Ritchie, Associate at DIALOG. Photo: DIALOG


Andrew Young (CivE MASc candidate) received the 2019-2020 Donald Tong Graduate Scholarship in Structural Engineering at a ceremony hosted by DIALOG in Toronto on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.  The scholarship was established in partnership with the University of Toronto to strengthen an already great relationship between DIALOG’s structural engineering team and the University’s engineering students and faculty.

About the Scholarship

The Donald Tong DIALOG Graduate Scholarship is intended to encourage students to pursue advanced study in structural engineering. It is awarded annually to a student enrolled in their first year of a graduate program within the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto. The scholarship is for $5,000 payable at the end of the fall semester.

The scholarship is named for long-time structural team member Donald Tong who passed away after a courageous battle with cancer in 2018. Donald epitomized the integrated design culture at the heart of DIALOG and it is our hope this award inspires future structural engineers with some of Donald’s creative, wide ranging, design spirit.


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