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Structural Deterioration Modeling Using the Discrete Element Method

2017 PTT Grant, University of Arkansas, $40,000


Many of the historic structures throughout the world were constructed with unreinforced masonry consisting of either fired brick or natural stone. These structures deteriorate over time and it is important for preservationists to understand the factors which have led to the current state, as well as be able to predict and prevent future deterioration. Of the available numerical modeling techniques, the discrete element method (DEM) has proven to be a valuable tool for modeling the behavior of masonry structures. To date however, most DEM simulations have only considered simple geometries because of the difficulty associated with developing more realistic models. New technology and faster computer processing has now made it possible to more accurately model the effects from deterioration through the inclusion of more representative geometries. The main goal of this project is to improve the way in which deteriorated historic masonry structures are modeled through the development of an automated system capable of employing more realistic 3D geometries. A large amount of heritage documentation using techniques like LiDAR scanning and photogrammetry has been gathered through the years and using this data to improve current modeling techniques is a valuable next step in preservation. Developing an automated process to create model elements from this 3D digital documentation data is critical in order to improve the current state of practice in a time- and cost-effective way. Implementing geometries into DEM models will provide more accurate estimates of performance, along with improved methods for determining the most appropriate preservation treatments.


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National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119