Seismic Upgrade of Wurster Hall

When Wurster Hall was seismically upgraded in 2001-2002, the project architects, engineers, contractors, and managers worked together to incorporate significant amounts of fly ash into the building's extensive new foundations.

Fly ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants, consists of tiny spherical glass particles that can be used as a replacement for the Portland cement that binds traditional concrete mixes. The manufacture of Portland cement requires large inputs of energy, and it is estimated that its manufacture constitutes about 8% of all carbon dioxide emissions from human sources. Approximately 75% of the fly ash produced annually is disposed of in landfills, which makes incorporating it into concrete a resource-efficient alternative.

Scott Shell of EHDD Architects, who has organized workshops on building with fly ash concrete, guided the Wurster design and construction team through the decision-making process.

Approximately 1800 cubic yards of concrete used in the Wurster project incorporated up to 50% fly ash content. The resulting concrete is stronger and more impermeable than conventional concrete; however it requires a longer setting time to reach its ultimate strength. For this reason, high-content fly ash is typically used in foundations to avoid slowing project schedules.

Incidentally, one of the world's leading researchers on the use of fly ash in structural concrete is UC Berkeley professor emeritus of civil engineering, P.K. Mehta.

Additional Information

UCB Media Release: Retrofits take 'green' approach to concrete foundations, by Kathleen Maclay, 17 January 2001

Images EHDD Architecture

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