Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Al Ghorbanpoor

Committee Members

Rani Elhajjar, Shiling Pei, Nathan P. Salowitz, Konstantin Sobolev, Habib Tabatabai


cross-laminated timber, elliptical rolling isolation, inverted pendulum structures, mass timber structures, resilient seismic design


Cross-laminated timber (CLT) buildings garnered international attention, nearly a decade ago, for elevating wood construction to new heights on fully panelized assemblies of floors and walls. While highly regarded as a sustainable building material, use of CLT as a structural wall system depends on seismically resilient strategies like controlled rocking. This project prototyped elliptically profiled CLT panels and slotted-pin steel connections, at full-scale, to produce rolling and slip-friction inverted pendulum wall systems of one-story height and inspired by seismic isolation concepts. Digital fabrication realized elliptical profiles along the load-bearing edges of six 5-ply CLT panels and various customized slot shapes for accompanying steel connections. Pins traveling within V-shaped slots intended only to guide rolling as displacement restraints, in contrast with pins constrained within vertical slots that forced panels into slip-friction combinations of rolling and sliding. Six CLT panels and two versions of shear transfer connections yielded a total of 12 full-scale wall prototype configurations for cyclic lateral load-displacement testing that emulated standard quasi-static protocols for seismic isolation. The hysteresis plots generated by the tests confirmed that elliptical eccentricity predictably controlled effective lateral stiffness and displacement capacity, while providing inherent self-centering. When configured to roll using traction along steel bearing surfaces as the primary mechanism of story shear transfer, CLT panels supported simulated gravity loads as high as 400 kN (90 kips) while achieving story drifts commonly exceeding 10 and even 20 percent. When configured to transfer shear primarily through a pin connection, however, CLT panels slid and sustained damage that limited gravity load capacity to 133 kN (30 kips). Connection constraint, therefore, dictated whether friction essentially transferred story shears transfer or dissipated energy. To help explain implications of friction, Digital Image Correlation (DIC), piezoelectric film pressure mapping, Finite Element Analysis, and fundamental free-body diagrams visualized the behavior of high-pressure contact between timber and steel. Despite the low damping exhibited by rolling and increased damage of slip-friction rocking, both models of elliptically profiled rocking walls can develop into viable options for isolation planes within multistory building schemes, based on the results of this study.

Available for download on Friday, August 28, 2020