Funding for new earthquake-proof building system 
Press Release: University of Canterbury - Wednesday, 21 May 2003

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Research that aims to develop a completely new, modular, seismically damage-resistant building system has been awarded $3.1 million in Foundation for Research, Science and Technology funding over the next six years plus another $1.3 million from industry sponsors.

The research team will be drawn from academia, the structural engineering design profession and the building-manufacturing industry under the leadership Professor John Mander who holds the Chair in Structural Engineering at the University of Canterbury. Professor Mander has considerable recent experience leading large research projects in the United States. Much of the computational and experimental research will be conducted in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury laboratories under his direction.

The energy efficiency analysis, design and experimental investigation will in-part be sub-contracted to Dr Larry Bellamy of Ensys Limited, while Holmes Consulting Group, led by Professor Des Bull will develop and ratify the proposed design strategies. Professor Bull, who is the Holcim Adjunct Professor of Concrete Design, says that this integrated university, industry and design consultancy approach is considered crucial in obtaining buy-in from the structural design profession.

Manufacturing and construction issues will be led by Mr Len McSaveney of Fletcher Building. Commitment of industry to this project is shown by the 30 % co-funding support for the research from Fletcher Building.

The aim is to construct the new system from modern high performance concrete materials. The parts will consist of structural precast frames (beams, columns and structural walls) and precast floors. Additionally, the non-structural building envelope will consist of energy-efficient structural concrete panels that are manufactured as precast concrete and can be dismantled and reused in a modular fashion.

Professor Mander says the research will benefit New Zealand in a variety of ways by, for example, creating a structural frame and flooring system that is immune from seismically-induced damage “in contrast to present designs in which life-safety is maintained, while damage is permitted”.

”We will also be creating a new set of products which New Zealand can manufacture and export, or license for international production, and be providing a more economical construction and long-term sustainable building solution with cost savings related to reduced building time-frames.”

The new system should also see a reduction in ongoing heating/air conditioning operating costs through the development of a highly energy-efficient building envelope, Professor Mander says.

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