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Kiwi Earthquake Innovations Tested On One Of The World’s Largest Shake Tables

Published: Mon 4 Mar 2024 11:04 AM
Real-life earthquake testing on three-storey buildings in one of the world’s biggest earthquake laboratories has delivered stunning results and endorsements for New Zealand engineering solutions.
With the support of EQC Toka Tū Ake and a number of New Zealand research agencies, Kiwi engineers have been working closely with their Chinese counterparts at the Tongji University in Shanghai to test a variety of New Zealand innovations on one of the largest shake tables on the planet, as part of the ROBUST (RObust BUilding SysTems) project.
Professor Greg MacRae, from the University of Canterbury, explains that the scope of the testing at the International Laboratory for Earthquake Engineering in Shanghai would be impossible in New Zealand, and the collaboration has provided stunning results and endorsements for New Zealand and Chinese engineering solutions.
“New Zealand is at the cutting edge of earthquake engineering, but we would never be able to test our solutions on a three-storey building in an earthquake laboratory back home,” says MacRae who is the project coordinator between the Chinese and New Zealand agencies, including EQC, BRANZ, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, Auckland University of Technology (AUT), HERA Foundation, QuakeCoRE and the Building Innovation Partnership.
A number of innovative connections to reduce building damage and increase seismic resilience were tested well beyond the shaking of the Canterbury earthquake, along with some non-structural construction elements like partition walls, sprinklers and ceilings.
MacRae says the testing will wrap up this month and will give researchers and engineers a treasure trove of data to analyse over the coming months.
EQC Head of Research Dr Natalie Balfour says ROBUST is a great example of how funders with different vested interests can come together to enable world-leading research.
“EQC is particularly interested in how this research can lead to more earthquake-resilient buildings. Some of the technology being tested through ROBUST is already in use in buildings across Aotearoa, so it’s important to understand how they will behave in future earthquakes. These results will help design buildings to withstand large earthquakes and minimise damage.”
One of the solutions tested in Shanghai was the sliding hinge connections developed by Professor Charles Clifton and improved at other New Zealand universities, including by Dr Shahab Ramhormozian from Auckland University of Technology who received the Ivan Skinner award by EQC in 2022 to fine-tune this “transformational” building connection.
The sliding hinge connection has been welcomed and used by engineers in New Zealand and abroad, but Dr Ramhormozian says that the rigorous testing in Shanghai is an important endorsement for the engineering world.
“We know that these new solutions work, but we can never test them to the level we have been able to in China, so for engineers and building developers it is hugely important to give them confidence that these connections will withstand very intense earthquake shaking such as we experience in New Zealand.”
Project coordinator Professor MacRae says that the collaboration with China has not only validated existing engineering solutions, but has also given his colleagues a deeper knowledge on how to design, validate and improve systems.
“The work, which uses widely disseminated technology developed in New Zealand, complemented by resources and new ideas from Chinese colleagues, creates a win-win situation, which will hopefully save lives and protect infrastructure around the world.”

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