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NZ engineer criticises Christchurch rebuild designs

15 Oct 12 The reconstruction of Christchurch buildings is ignoring New Zealand’s own world-class earthquake technology, according to the technical director of consultant Aurecon.

Stephen Hogg with a simple model of how a building should react in an earthquake.
Stephen Hogg with a simple model of how a building should react in an earthquake.

World-leading earthquake engineering technology emanating out of Christchurch is being ignored by some owners in their haste to erect new buildings in the city, said Stephen Hogg.

Hogg has just returned from the 15th world conference on earthquake engineering in Portugal. He said that after having listened to world experts discussing earthquake engineering design, it reinforces the fact that Christchurch, backed by the University of Canterbury, leads the world.

“What has horrified me recently is that while walking around the city I am seeing buildings going up that are ignoring the earthquake engineering technology available on our doorstep,” he said. “I’m not talking all buildings, but we are in danger of repeating the sins of the past.”

He said that the extra cost of making a building truly dynamic is very small, probably less than 1% of the total build cost.

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“Christchurch has the chance to build the best seismically resilient buildings in the world, but already we are starting to miss a few tricks.”

Central to the low damage design solutions is the incorporation of anti-seismic devices inside the building. “It’s like having a building full of shock absorbers that have the ability to dampen seismic energy while also allowing the building to move with the quake’s force, to be dynamic. Watch a car with good shock absorbers move and sway when on a bumpy road, it’s the same principle,” he said. “And the other good thing is that these building shock absorbers only cost a few hundred dollars per unit and can be replaced.”

Hogg added: “The old mantra that ‘earthquakes don’t read design code’ is just so appropriate here. It is foolhardy to stick rigidly to code. The last earthquake was twice code and there is no reason that the next ‘big one’ might exceed the new code.

“What we need are buildings that are truly resilient, and the place to find that information is right here in Christchurch.”

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