A University of Utah faculty member is one of two college professors selected by the National Science Foundation for a two-week trip to Japan, where he is studying earthquake structure safety.

Naser Mostaghel, a U. civil engineering professor, and James Kelly, director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, are members of a special United States delegation.

The team is exchanging information on base isolators, equipment placed in building foundations to minimize the damaging effects of earthquakes.

Seismic base isolators protect buildings by substantially separating them from damaging ground motions and by absorbing energy.

The base isolation theory suggests, said Mostaghel, that if the foundation can slide back and forth beneath the building the seismic energy normally transmitted to the superstructure is significantly reduced and thus less dangerous.

In effect, the building "floats" on a system of foundation bearings that filter the earthquake's horizontal ground motion. Base isolators provide architects and structural designers with an alternative to traditional seismic practices for designing future buildings and retrofitting existing structures.

The Salt Lake City-County Building, a unreinforced masonry structure nearly 100 years old, is being retrofitted with base isolators.

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