Researchers from UCLA, the University of Buffalo, and Tufts University are using the warehouse as an experiment to measure the damage earthquakes do.
That’s where the importance of the fay street warehouse comes in.
"We couldn’t do it in any other building. It has to be a building that close to demolition, so we can go and make changes in terms of the structure," said University of Buffalo research professor Andreas Stavridis.
They do it by measuring vibrations that they're comparing to music.
"A building has notes, if you will, like a musical instrument. Characteristic notes,” said UCLA research professor Bob Nigbor.
That means that the Fay Street warehouse is actually vibrating at a low frequency, literally moving back and forth.
"Maybe a thousandth of an inch just due to the vibration from traffic and wind. When we get our shaker going we can get ten or a hundred times that much," said Nigbor.
And this is the machine that produces those vibrations. It shakes the building back and forth with over ten thousand pounds of force, which produces data for the University of Buffalo.
"Develop tools and algorithms that can be used anywhere in the world and ideally in any type of building," said Stavridis.
That is to keep people safe.
"We will be able to identify the damage and tell people whether it’s safe or not to go back to their building after an earthquake or after any disaster actually," said Stavridis.
Normally the buildings they shake have people or partitions in them.
The warehouse being empty provides the purest form of data for the research.
UCLA, the University of Buffalo, and Tufts University are able to team up with the Department of Transportation because of funding from the national science foundation’s network for earthquake engineering simulation.