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 Professor Greg MacRae praised visiting Professor Michel Bruneau and what he brings to the latest research being undertaken for the UC Quake Centre.



Understanding Structural Selection Decisions in Christchurch Reconstruction


The visit of a leading U.S. academic has reinforced the importance of not just the technical, but the sociological and political drivers for different forms of building construction decisions made in an earthquake context.


Professor Michel Bruneau from the University at Buffalo has been in Christchurch working with the UC Quake Centre and UC Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Greg MacRae, holding discussions with a number of structural engineering consultants involved in Christchurch’s reconstruction. These discussions are part of a study documenting decisions on the selection of structural systems for buildings.


Professor MacRae, who sits on the board of the Quake Centre, says Professor Bruneau brings important expertise that is relevant to this study. 


“Professor Bruneau is particularly interested in the Christchurch post-earthquake reconstruction and the drivers - technical, sociological and political – that have influenced the decision about the building form and structural material. The choice of building system is not only based on technical aspects of building performance, but it is also affected by public perceptions, and governmental requirements.”


Professor MacRae points to the increasing demand in Christchurch for buildings that will perform well, become operational quickly after an earthquake and look visibly strong to make people feel safe. Having a building which provides such a sense of safety increases emotional security and comfort.


Professor Bruneau is the former director of the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), and has had a great deal of experience interacting with stakeholders from various disciplines focused on the goal of achieving seismic resilience.


“It’s good to discuss politics and their relationship to quake readiness and bring recovery into the spotlight,” says Professor MacRae. “There are politics at a number of different levels in New Zealand that are very relevant, from central government’s ability to mandate strong, responsive structures to a city council’s desire to have a city that is able to recover immediately after an earthquake.”


Much of the discussion evoked from Professor Bruneau’s visit has centred on the way that buildings constructed post-quake differ from those that existed prior to the quakes, and the intersection between the technical, sociological and political aspects of the design and engineering decision-making process. 














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