05/16/2012 09:53 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Bomb blasts aim to protect government buildings

An Ottawa laboratory is blowing up bits and pieces of government buildings in an attempt to make them bombproof.

The University of Ottawa is looking at the first Canadian standard for blast design, which experts expect will improve their work in protecting government buildings such as those in Ottawa and embassies in war zones.

On Tuesday, they used a pressure chamber called a "shock tube" to simulate the effects of a car-bombing on a typical concrete column built in the 1970s or 80s.

The simulation was built by professor Murat Saatcioglu and his research team. The column, as expected, fails the test.

"[The column is] subjected to 700 kg of TNT, so this translates into having a van full of TNT explosives parked across the street at about 40 to 45 metres from the building," Saatcioglu said.

Failed column brings measurements, data

The work is considered a success because the blast provides measurements and data that can be used to design better columns.

All of these tests are part of new research directed at real government buildings. The researchers have already proven they can retrofit a building to make them much more bombproof and reduce the amount of shrapnel.

The federal government decides what buildings would be retrofit and protected, which would go a long way, according to Saatcioglu, in saving occupants from large explosions.

"If you go to a medium or low-level of protection you're basically sacrificing the building, so long as you can save the occupants," Saatcioglu said.