New Zealanders raise expectations for building resilience amid seismic concerns

Expert recommends strategy to address New Zealanders' concerns

New Zealanders raise expectations for building resilience amid seismic concerns


By Roxanne Libatique

Recent research in New Zealand has revealed that New Zealanders have elevated expectations regarding the performance of buildings during seismic events, surpassing mere life safety concerns.

Helen Ferner, from the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineers (NZSEE), underscored this sentiment – noting that New Zealanders aspire not only to survive major earthquakes but also to swiftly resume occupancy and activities within affected structures.

“New Zealanders don't just want to escape a major earthquake with their lives, but they want to be back living and working in those buildings soon after an earthquake,” she said.

Ferner's remarks coincide with the release of findings from the Resilient Buildings Project, a collaborative effort between NZSEE and the EQC Toka Tū Ake. This project aims to delineate societal expectations concerning building resilience and furnish a policy framework aiding engineers and designers in adhering to these benchmarks.

Calls for adaptive building design strategies in New Zealand

Ferner emphasised the necessity for adaptive building design strategies that mirror societal preferences and risk tolerances, all while factoring in cost-effective mitigation measures.

“Our approach to design of new building continues to evolve and needs always to reflect society's desires and tolerance to the risk of damage, while also considering the costs of mitigation,” she said.

Highlighting the economic and social ramifications, Ferner stressed the framework's significance in facilitating the development of more resilient buildings within budgetary constraints, while also aligning with public expectations.

Dr Jo Horrocks, chief resilience and research officer at EQC, echoed this sentiment, emphasising the imperative of fortifying homes on stable ground, particularly in light of recent seismic events.

“From what New Zealanders have experienced in the past decade, more focus on preventing or minimising seismic damage to buildings makes good economic and social sense,” she said.

Last month, EQC released its report that documented $14 million investment aimed at improving New Zealand's defences against natural hazards.

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