NHRP / Hazard themes / Resilient Buildings and Infrastructure / Engineering Highlights 2013-14

Engineering Highlights 2013-14

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).

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Stefano Pampanin (Univ Canterbury) and David Johnston (GNS/Massey Univ; Societal Theme leader) co-hosted a US delegation from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) as part of a study on the New Zealand recovery experience. The visit by EERI will share the lessons of recovery with governments around the world and was co-sponsored by the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and European Union .

A new publication has been released on ‘Soil Liquefaction during Recent Large-Scale Earthquakes’ (left). Edited by Rolando Orense and Nawawi Chouw (both University of Auckland) and Ikuo Towhata (University of Tokyo). The anthology contains selected work funded by the Platform and presented at the NZ-Japan workshop held at University of Auckland. The workshop was attended by engineering practitioners from NZ, Japan and Chile.

 Cook Strait/Lake Grassmere Earthquakes

Platform engineers took part in building inspections following the earthquakes. University of Auckland researchers installed accelerometers in a selection of Wellington buildings to capture building responses during the aftershock sequence, and GNS Science monitored instrumented buildings as part of the GeoNet programme in this area. The New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering website posted earthquake engineering data during this time to benefit end-users (Link ♦). These efforts were additionally supported by EQC, LINZ, BRANZ, and Geonet.



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Excellent research continues on New Zealand bridges from soil-structure interactions to improved seismic performance and repair options. Palermo’s Canterbury research group have created and tested bridge prototypes that incorporate low damage design and self-centering capability, a first worldwide. At Auckland, Chouw’s research team investigate how ground motions affect bridge performance. The Auckland-Canterbury Bridge groups are working closely with the NZ Transport Agency to update the current bridge standards, and their contribution to the NZ bridge manual will produce ”…some of the most advanced bridge design specifications in the world.”(NZTA newsletter, supplementary issue Nov 2013).


There has been excellent progress in taking ideas from concept to practice. Sliding hinge joint technology was originally developed by Charles Clifton (University of Auckland) with HERA.* Further development between researchers at Universities of Auckland and Canterbury with industry has enabled its inclusion in new construction in Christchurch. The sliding hinge joint helps dissipate energy from earthquakes, protecting columns and beams, and is also more accessible for repairs. In early 2014, Aurecon announced use of the technology for a new building on the Terrace, Christchurch. In 2009, Victoria University Wellington incorporated an earlier model of sliding hinge technology and base rocking in its Te Puni building. During the Cook Strait earthquake, the building performed as expected with minor joint movement and no structural damage or residual drift. Certainly more ready adoption of these methods into construction would be welcomed. The barriers to use of low damage technologies is a topic being addressed by SR Uma (GNS) and Rajesh Dhakal (UC). A focus group with practitioners and building owners has been organised for mid 2014 to discuss and identify solutions for implementation.

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Stefano Pampanin (University of Canterbury) has been examining simulated shaking in conjunction with new low damage design technologies to identify features that could perform well in an earthquake (NZ Herald link ♦). Pampanin’s research team have tested basic framed structures under numerous rounds of simulated high magnitude shaking based on recent global earthquakes. Once low-damage design elements are determined for the frame, the research team will incorporate structural elements such as drywall partitions and concrete facades, with the aim that the whole of the building becomes low damage design.Their findings have been presented at the European Conference for Earthquake Engineering in Istanbul (August 2014). Pampanin’s research team is also taking part in an international task group comprised of researchers from NZ, Japan, Chile and the USA. They will work together to develop practical guidelines on the performance of walls and diaphragms.


Misko Cubrinovski and Matthew Hughes have completed a report on the performance of horizontal infrastructure in Christchurch through the earthquake events of 2010-11. Their report summarises the performance of Christchurch City’s potable water, waste water and road networks and focuses on the potable water network. The report is available on the Platform website and findings shared with SCIRT, Christchurch City Council and others (Link ♦).

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Last updated 14 Jan 2015