UC News - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

UC simulating more than 100 earthquakes in its lab


Professor Stefano Pampanin

19 March 2014

The University of Canterbury (UC) is simulating more than 100 earthquakes on a building prototype to make post-quake buildings safer.

Professor Stefano Pampanin, from UC’s Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, has been overseeing simulated-shakes as big as, and even bigger than, the February 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake in UC’s structural engineering laboratory. See a YouTube video clip of the testing here: http://youtu.be/yQvjLIYah0s.

His research team has shaken a modern two-storey low-damage concrete building in the lab to confirm the best new design and technology for a post-quake era.

The concrete structure is a development of other new low-damage design buildings  including the Endoscopy building of Southern  Cross Hospital on the edge of the central business district (CBD), designed by Structex Metro, and uses the same technology implemented in new post-tensioned timber buildings.

Led by Professor Pampanin, the experimental campaign on integrated low-damage technology is one of the major tasks of the research project SAFER technology funded by the Natural Hazard Platform.

This testing is part of the thesis work of UC postgraduate students, Harry Johnston  (masters) and Chris Watson (PhD),  who are co-supervised by Dr Alessandro Palermo and Professor Andy Buchanan, respectively.

Professor Pampanin earlier secured parts of the Grand Chancellor Hotel and the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) buildings for future testing, to see how they performed in the earthquakes, how many aftershocks they would be able to sustain and what repairing techniques could be implemented.

New earthquake-resistant building technology designed by UC engineers is being employed in Christchurch's rebuild to protect future public safety and reduce the socio-economic losses following a major earthquake.

"This new generation of buildings will be expected to withstand a series of strong earthquakes, to protect the lives of occupants and buildings should be easily re-occupied with minimum repairs and cost almost immediately after any event,’’ Professor Pampanin says.

UC is leading the world in the development and implementation of low-damage structural technology, using either concrete, steel, timber or combination of them. Its civil and structural engineering is ranked 19th among the top 3000 universities in the world.

"We feel it is part of our duty to learn and develop as much as we can from these unfortunate experiences. Christchurch has a unique opportunity to ensure the rebuild becomes a world leading model of sustainable development and implementation of best practice following an earthquake.

"The target is very ambitious. We want to develop a fully earthquake-proof building. We are not there yet and it might take few more decades, but we are steadily moving towards this goal.’’

Professor Pampanin is the current President of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering which is holding its annual technical conference in Auckland this week.

The theme of the conference is towards integrated seismic design, referring to the need to look at the overall picture of building systems and infrastructures, organisations and societal aspects in order to develop earthquake resilient cities and communities.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz