Home > FrameCAD Researcher Reviews Safety of Steel in Housing Construction after Christchurch Quake

FrameCAD Researcher Reviews Safety of Steel in Housing Construction after Christchurch Quake

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New Zealander Dr Darrin Bell, FRAMECAD Design Services Manager is one among several building and construction industry experts motivated to improve building methods in earthquake zones in the aftermath of the Christchurch disaster.  

Experts in the building and construction industry from around the world are looking to learn from the tragedy and improve building safety in earthquake zones.  

Dr Bell believes that building design, engineering and construction in regions subject to seismic activity must be specifically tailored to withstand the unique environmental stresses that result from earthquakes.

Of particular concern to FRAMECAD is the structural integrity of steel framed brick veneer homes.

According to Dr Bell, if collapse is prevented and structural integrity maintained to allow safe and orderly evacuation of a building after a big shake, it will go a long way towards preventing injury or more tragic outcomes.

In this context, he cites Prof John Wilson, Chair of the Australian Earthquake Loading Standard and Deputy Dean of Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne who has highlighted the concern for older style buildings where there is vulnerable un-reinforced masonry.  

These buildings are especially prone to collapse and reduced life safety of occupants.

FRAMECAD has conducted a series of large-scale scientific tests simulating different kinds of earthquakes at different magnitudes.  

Full scale shaking table tests simulated earthquakes up to magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, without causing any serious damage to the structure of the building.

The results reinforce FRAMECAD’s belief that steel framing provides a viable building material of choice under these adverse circumstances.

The tests were conducted using FRAMECAD framing by Professor Emad Gad at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with University of Auckland, BRANZ, the NZ Building Council and the National Association of Steel Framed Housing (NASH).

Dr Bell comments that a key factor is steel’s tensile strength and its ability to flex, which has also been highlighted by Mr Robert Bevan, a Sydney and London-based architectural writer.  

Commenting on Christchurch in The Australian newspaper, Mr Bevan said that some buildings, such as Wellington's 100-year-old Old Public Trust Building had an innovative steel cage from the start to provide the tensile strength to flex.  

He goes on to say that while some buildings have been properly braced and strapped, many are not in spite of NZ's earthquake history.

Dr Bell says that steel possesses the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any building material being used today including timber and block.

With the increasing use of steel framing in construction, FRAMECAD is helping to improve the safety of buildings, not just in New Zealand but also in many other markets globally.

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