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Researchers solve an earthquake-prone problem in 1980s and 1990s buildings

Researchers solve an earthquake-prone problem in 1980s and 1990s buildings


It took 25 years of research, but engineers say they now have the answers to repair buildings from the 1980s and 1990s prone to earthquake damage.

Researchers from the Universities of Canterbury and Auckland are looking at ways to strengthen precast concrete floors, which often loosen during earthquakes.

In a laboratory at the University of Auckland, a precast concrete floor has been tested, being pushed and pulled as if in an earthquake.

The team said the danger of precast floors is that they can separate from their supports.

But in the lab, these floors hold up, thanks to the beams and cables that reinforce them underneath.

Engineers say it’s the best evidence yet that providing additional support is working.

“We now believe we are in a position where we have reliable guidelines that engineers should trust to determine how to proceed with the design of those retrofits and make sure they are installed correctly,” said Nicholas Brock, Vice President of Structural Engineering. Community.

He said it was a huge advance 20 years ago when floors, also known as hollow cores, were tested using something called the Matthews test.

And soon those floors collapsed in an earthquake simulation.

“Hollow core pavers are a reasonably brittle form of construction. So compared to most reinforced concrete structures, they are more likely to suddenly fail,” Brooke explained.

The Northridge earthquake in California 25 years ago first alerted engineers to the dangers posed by prefabricated floors.

They have been studying this problem since then, and it is hoped that the latest research will give building owners greater confidence in retrofitting.

“Of all the uncertainty and fears that we have about our buildings, that are well-founded, this provides a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and that is perhaps the positive way forward, and how we address our existing building inventory,” said Joe Horrocks, president of Department of Resilience and Research at EQC.

But earthquake reinforcement is expensive. Work on Wellington City Hall just cost $180 million to fix the Central Library, which has prefabricated floors, about the same price.

It’s those kinds of costs that make a difficult call for owners – to demolish or save?

“My hope with this research is that we don’t see buildings abandoned or demolished because they tell us exactly what we need to do,” Horrocks said. “The research team focused on the most cost-effective retrofits.”




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