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Visiting academic explores quake “Lessons Learned”


The Christchurch of the future will bear little resemblance to what we’ve seen before – especially from a structural engineer’s viewpoint. Understanding how the city gets there is just as important as the outcome, according to Professor Michel Bruneau, an international quake expert. Professor Bruneau is working with UC’s Quake Centre to improve the rebuild of seismically resilient cities across New Zealand and the world.


A structural engineering researcher from the University of Buffalo, New York, Professor Michel Bruneau is collaborating with Professor Gregory MacRae of UC’s Quake Centre. Their work will culminate in a report providing useful “lessons learned” for cities that face natural disasters worldwide in the future.


Professor Bruneau, speaking on the technical, sociological and political factors that influence post-quake construction decision-making, says understanding each of them is important.


“The Christchurch earthquake has been a defining moment in structural engineering,” says Professor Bruneau. “Before, Christchurch was very much a concrete city, but now the reconstruction is predominantly steel. These choices have been made for a reason and the purpose of this study is to discover what those reasons are using anecdotal information and quantitative data.”


Armed with a passion for steel structures, Professors Bruneau and MacRae are talking with structural engineers and the Quake Centre’s industry partners to gain an understanding of the motivation behind their design and construction decisions, and how often steel is used versus traditional structural systems.


Professor Bruneau has tremendous experience in all three of the influence areas that impact rebuild decisions. He has held technical committee positions in North America and Asia, and is a former Director of a Quake Centre in the United States where he worked with central government to mandate stronger structures.


Professor Bruneau says the lessons learned from Canterbury hold great international value. “This experience of urban devastation is likely to replicate itself in other parts of the world. It would be nice, when that happens, to have the knowledge from Christchurch to apply in other cities. With this research, designers and builders will have the information to make good decisions for the future.”


With the expectation that their findings will aid consulting engineering firms, steel fabricators and code-writing bodies, the report is scheduled for completion in February-March 2017.













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