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Engineering Highlights 2012-13

This theme is comprised of partners from GNS Science, University of Canterbury, and University of Auckland, with input from NIWA's wind and weather programme (wind loading standards), and additionally, from seismology, economics and societal resilience. Platform’s research engineers are a key group responsible for implementing the recommendations from the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission. Researchers interact regularly with the Engineering Advisory Group, and MBIE’s Building & Housing group, and have made significant contributions to the update of New Zealand standards in seismic restraints (NZS4219), concrete structures (NZS3101), and seismic design loads (NZS1170.5).

Images (l-r): Eccentrically-braced frames, (Charles Clifton, Univ. Auckland); High force to volume devices, (Gregory MacRae, Uniiv, Canterbury in Natural Hazards 2012); Seismic design of high level storage systems, (SR Uma, GNS Science in Natural Hazards 2011).

Natural Hazards 2012 covers topics in ground liquefaction (Cubrinovski, UOC), and performance of unreinforced masonry (Ingham, UOA). Additional highlights include the ‘Post-Earthquake Cities’ programme at GNS which has received considerable attention. Jim Cousins led a study estimating damage to, and restoration of, the bulk water supply system into Wellington City, which includes consequent impacts on people due to a prolonged loss of water (LINK ♦). Advice was provided to Greater Wellington Regional Council on the estimated water shortfall for a variety of large earthquakes scenarios, and on evaluations of various mitigation measures. SR Uma was an invited presenter for FEMA (USA) discussing modelling data from earthquake damage; Uma also presented at ‘Wellington Rocks! Earthquake Expo’ on low damage construction. Rob Buxton was invited to take part in a NZ Treasury delegation to Canberra to discuss critical infrastructural modelling.

Alessandro Palermo’s (UOC) group is focussing on bridge damage in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. Palermo’s research aims to improve the seismic performance and recovery of bridges in future events. Most bridges are constructed on-site, but Palermo works with pre-fabricated piers, in what he terms the ‘accelerated bridge construction & design (ABCD) method’ (LINK ). The advantage of prefabrication includes rapid construction, minimal traffic disruption, and improved control of the materials. Testing of prefabricated structures will begin in August. Palermo works closely with SCIRT and NZTA and his research has gained attention in New Zealand and overseas. Palermo is the 2013 recipient of the Ivan Skinner award presented by the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering in recognition of research that reduces the impact of earthquakes in NZ communities. Also at Canterbury, Rajesh Dhakal was awarded the 2013 UC Teaching Award. This is a significant achievement given that the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission recognised the importance of training the next generation of engineers (Vol. 7, Sect. 3). Dhakal’s research on non-structural elements has contributed to a workshop on Seismic Restraints for industry professionals, a report for Building & Housing (MBIE), and professional guidance on NZ standards (LINK ♦).

Nawawi Chouw at University of Auckland investigates soil-structure interactions. One of his projects looks at the influence of ground structure on bridge design. Currently, there is little guidance for engineers on how the supporting ground should be considered in the seismic design of bridge structures. This work will culminate in an update of the current bridge design manual. Chouw also leads a team examining soil-structure interactions on foundations and whole structures. Their preliminary investigations revealed that some buildings performed better than others, contrary to model predictions. One of their aims is to better document and quantify the range of performance for combinations of ground conditions and foundation types. Chouw’s doctoral student Ms. Yuanzhi Chen was awarded a travel grant to attend the 10th International Conference on Urban Earthquake Engineering in Japan (LINK ♦).

Collaboration across partners is strong. Stefano Pampanin (UOC) and Charles Clifton (UOA) are leading a joint project with wide participation that addresses priority areas from the Royal Commission on ductile reinforced concrete building performance. Gregory MacRae and Clifton are working together on low damage construction systems which include eccentrically braced frames (Clifton, Contest 2012 (Link ♦) and Natural Hazards 2011), and High-force-to-volume lead extrusion dissipators (Rodgers and MacRae, Natural Hazards 2012 (LINK ♦)). Clifton and MacRae were keynote speakers at ‘Steel Innovations, 2013’ (LINK ♦) held in Christchurch. Steel buildings on the whole behaved very well during the earthquakes by satisfying their 'life safety' mandate, and in their ability to be occupied post-earthquake. There is wide industry support to continue work in low damage technologies.

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