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UC Quake Centre Manager Greg Preston (far right) at the 16WCEE Gala Dinner in Santiago, Chile.


A look back at the 16WCEE  (World Conference on Earthquake Engineering) with Greg Preston


That tipple of champagne at sunset on the stunning grounds of historic Club Hípico de Santiago, looks a fine

send off from the 16th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering (16WCEE) but belies the hard work, serious networking and fascinating exchange of ideas that occurred at this worthwhile international event.


The Club Hípico de Santiago, opened in 1870, is Chile's oldest racetrack. It was also the venue for the 16WCEE Gala dinner and part of the 5 day conference held 9-13 January 2017.


Held every four years in earthquake hot spots around the world and organised by the International Association of Earthquake Engineering, this year’s theme was ‘Resilience, the new challenge in earthquake engineering’


Quake Centre Manager, Greg Preston was in attendance at the 16WCEE, (having arrived on horseback) and summed up his experience in a report written to Quake Centre Director Robert Finch.


“It was difficult to sum up such a large and diverse event,” says Greg, “but I did come away with new insights on where the practice of earthquake engineering currently stands, and the issues that are highest on the world agenda.”


Throughout the course of the conference there were high quality keynote presentations that addressed current issues around performance-based engineering: what this offers; how it integrates with code-based design; and the difficulties and pitfalls in advancing this agenda.


“The overwhelming 16WCEE message was that lessons from recent earthquakes have (in the developed world at least) shifted the discussion from life-safety to economic resilience,” says Greg.


“Buildings that are well-designed and constructed to modern codes do perform well in regards to saving lives but generally do not perform well in regards to continuity of use or costs of repair.”


At the 16WCEE, the single largest special session was the Seismic Performance of Non- structural Elements (SPONSE) workshop that  followed on from the SPONSE workshop hosted by the Quake Centre in April 2016.


Greg observed that, “this is clearly an area that is gaining significant international interest and looks to be growing fast. It’s encouraging that the Quake Centre is at the forefront in its strategic focus in this regard.”


As with many conferences, much value is gained from the good quality conversations that occur around the sessions. For Greg this conference was no different. “The opportunity to discuss issues with colleagues from NZ and overseas unearthed a number of opportunities that we are actively following up on.”


There was a strong New Zealand presence and while this was mostly from the research community there were also notable presentations from Quake Centre partners including David Whitaker from Beca and Ioannis Prionas from Harrison Grierson.


Dave McGuigan, the Deputy Chief Engineer at MBIE also presented a good paper entitled: The continued response of the New Zealand Government to the Canterbury Earthquakes.


Overall Greg found the 16WCEE, “to be stimulating and useful in placing my understanding of the state of research and practice in NZ in context with the state of play internationally.”


“I was left with the impression that NZ is well connected, performing well on the international stage and taking its share of the lead in a number of areas.”


“I felt very privileged to attend and I was pleased to see recognition given to the good work being done at the Quake Centre.”


The 17WCEE will be in Japan in 2020 and Greg hopes to get the opportunity to attend to see how earthquake engineering has progressed and how NZ has contributed.












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