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February 2011: The engineer shared lessons learned from the Christchurch earthquakes

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Dr. Dmytro Dizore, a certified structural engineer in Auckland, spent a decade researching the performance of unreinforced construction buildings during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

A structural engineer says lessons learned from the devastating Christchurch earthquake 10 years ago guided construction strengthening work around the world.

Dr. Dmytro Dzhour was among the first to help assess damaged buildings after the February 2011 earthquake, and since then he has spent 10 years researching how unsupported buildings have performed in the disaster.

A certified structural engineer in Auckland has compiled his key notes into a book he hopes will help save lives.

Dzuhur said he remembers arriving in stricken Christchurch shortly after the 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck.

Read more: * The building owner was exposed to shock due to not carrying out earthquake strengthening work * Facades must be checked for earthquake hazards * Engineers welcome the new seismic assessment rules

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People whose lives were changed by their participation in the CTV building collapse during the February 2011 earthquake tell their stories.

“It was a huge shock to the system to see how much damage was done … all the building work on the ground, the smashed cars, the bricks everywhere.

“It was so terrifying.”

Dzhour was part of a team that spent weeks navigating the city to identify which buildings were safe and which were unsafe.

Despite the immediate destruction and chaos, he soon realized there were important lessons to be learned.

“We needed to understand why some buildings were still standing, while others were scattered everywhere.”

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Dizhur’s book, Structural Performance, includes 52 case studies of construction buildings in Christchurch that were damaged during the February 2011 earthquake.

It was the start of a massive 10-year research project, conducted together with other famous experts, to assess earthquake damage in 650 of the old, unreinforced buildings.

Dizhur ended up staying in Christchurch for about a year after the earthquake to conduct the search.

He said that while public interest was largely focused on notable buildings such as the Cathedral of Christ Church and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the greatest lessons were offered by the smaller and less important buildings in the city.

“Some of these buildings are still standing today because human rights methods and techniques were used to strengthen them. They ended up being little golden nuggets in our learning about earthquake performance and understanding how we can mitigate earthquake damage in the future.”

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The audience may have focused on notable buildings like Christ Church Cathedral, pictured, but some of the greatest engineering lessons were learned from what happened to the smaller buildings. (File photo)

Much of the local research has led to international research that has focused on lessons learned in Christchurch.

“Some of our findings are now being used for building reinforcement work that is being done in Italy or the United States,” said Dzhor.

“Using what we’ve learned, we’re leading the world in some of these aspects … [like] Rapid reinforcement projects for buildings across the country. “

Of the 650 unsupported buildings evaluated after the earthquake, Dizhur chose 52 to be used as case studies in his book, Structural Performance.

Every building in the book underwent some reinforcement work before the earthquake, and their performance during the earthquake provided valuable lessons for construction experts.

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The proceeds from the sale of Dizhur’s book will help engineering students after graduation to do more research.

These included buildings such as Strategy House on the corner of Morehouse Street and Madras, and 210 Twin Street – the Christchurch City Council building that had been closed for 10 years.

“The book is not about making recommendations, but rather our observations about techniques and methods that worked well, and which worked less than we expected.”

Structural Performance will be released later this month and all proceeds will go to fund further research into building performance and solutions.

“There will never be a point where we can say that we have now learned everything we can. It is a continuous journey to develop new ideas and technologies,” said Dzhour.

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