In January 2017, Santiago Chile took its turn to host the 16WCEE – the sixteenth World Conference on Earthquake Engineering (WCEE).
Organized by the International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE), the conferences bring together thousands of scientists, engineers and professionals in the field, to discuss the latest advances and findings in earthquake science.
The conference is held every four years in different seismic hot spots around the globe. Beijing, China played host to the 14WCEE in 2008 with the historic city vista of Lisbon, Portugal, the locale for the 2012, 15WCEE. Still recovering from a massive 9.0 magnitude megathrust earthquake and tsunami that slammed into its coastal regions on March 11, 2011 Sendai Japan will host in 2020. Our shaky New Zealand isles are being touted (but still to be confirmed), as the potential conference venue for 2024.
At this year's Santiago 16WCEE, earthquake enthusiast attendees could delve into topics on offer that included seismology, tsunamis and geotechnical earthquake engineering. Also covered was; the design of new structures; the assessment and retrofitting of existing structures and infrastructure and lifeline systems. As well; the social and economic aspects of earthquakes; emergency management; and preparedness for large seismic events.
Not your typical sit, sip and listen, a unique feature of the conference programme is the option of a real-world empirical experience – to visit and explore local landmarks of seismic significance. The city of Santiago boasts the tallest building in Latin America - the Gran Torre. Built in 2013, this engineering feat of glass-encased steel and concrete towers an eye-watering 300 metres skyward.
The city's second tallest building, the Titanium La Portada, was completed in 2010 and ascends a mighty 200 metres. But the aluminum, reinforced concrete, steel, granite and glass structure is equally remarkable for what lies below the surface - in its foundations. Sixty-five concrete and steel pylons anchored fifty metres deep helped withstand a forceful 2010 8.8 magnitude tremor in the region beautifully, with minimal damage.
Alongside the modern glass and steel architecture featured on the tour are sites of heritage earthquake significance too. The San Fransisco Church, consecrated in 1622, has the distinction of being the oldest colonial-era building in the city. It has survived relatively intact, despite earthquakes destroying its bell tower twice, once in the 1647 and again in 1730.
The five day 16WCEE programme included many prestigious speakers sharing their knowledge from a career in seismic science. Notable among them was Dr. René Lagos, Chairman and C.E.O. of René Lagos Engineers. Dr. Lagos leads the firm’s High-rise Buildings and Seismic Design Group, that has helped oversee the structural design of more than 1,500 projects (including the former mentioned tallest building in Santiago - the Gran Torre).
Dr. Carlos Ventura shared his experiences as the Director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Facility (University of British Colombia). Internationally recognized consultant for structural vibrations and safety of large civil engineering structures, Dr. Ventura conducts research and analysis into structural systems subjected to extreme dynamic loads and severe ground shaking.
The highlight (and ticket seller for many) was invited speaker Prof. Jianzhong Li the director of the International Joint Research Laboratory of Earthquake Engineering, (Tongji University, China). His knowledge spans the experiences that come with being the one of the largest compliers of seismic design codes for bridges and structures in the world.