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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Answers to critical questions about buildings in Christchurch

The Royal Society of New Zealand have published an information paper on earthquake engineering in Christchurch entitled: THE CANTERBURY EARTHQUAKES: Answers to critical questions about buildings.

Here are the introductory comments from the Royal Society's website:
This information paper reports on earthquake damage to buildings in Christchurch from the 4 September earthquake, and its associated aftershocks, and what this means for building design in the future. The paper brings together the science and engineering expertise of several organisations – the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand, the New Zealand Geotechnical Society and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering.
It provides answers to critical questions such as ‘What is an earthquake prone building?’, ‘Why did buildings collapse in these earthquakes?’, and ‘Given that a building has been through one earthquake, how do we know how much of its “earthquake life” has been used up?’
The paper looks to answer questions related to the expected performance of buildings during earthquakes as well as their actual behaviour in Christchurch.
The contributing organisations hope it will also provide better public understanding about designing buildings to resist earthquakes, and the new lessons to be learnt following the Canterbury earthquakes.
The paper is a reasonable read, only 12 pages long, and the use of photographs and maps clarifies some of the technical points. The section headings are:
  • What are the functions and forms of buildings?
  • What controls building design and construction? 
  • How are buildings made earthquake resistant?
  • How do earthquakes damage buildings?
  • How is the minimum earthquake shaking level for building designs set? 
  • For what level of shaking are buildings currently designed?
  • What is an earthquake prone building?
  • If some buildings were earthquake prone, why were they not retrofitted?
  • Why did buildings collapse in these earthquakes?
  • What types of damage occurred to Christchurch buildings?
  • What is building safety evaluation?
  • Given that a building has been through one earthquake, how do we know how much of its “earthquake life” has been used up?
  • Are earthquake design codes likely to change as a result of this earthquake sequence?
  • Is all masonry susceptible to damage or collapse in large shaking?
  • Is there room for improving building safety?
  • What are some of the new lessons from the earthquake sequence?
  • What are some low cost methods of improving earthquake safety?

You can read their media release, and download a copy of the paper, from here.
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