Canterbury technology behind the future of earthquake-resistant construction

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Cutting-edge timber technology developed in Christchurch could change the future of construction and how buildings react to earthquakes.

The new Beatrice Tinsley building, at the University of Canterbury’s (UC) Ilam campus, is under construction utilising UC-patented technology. Pres-Lam has been developed for multi-storey timber construction.

Civil and natural engineering professor Alessandro Palermo is one of three academics in the UC Engineering Department behind the technology making this type of construction possible.

Palermo said buildings put together using Pres-Lam “will have minimal damage after an earthquake”. Part of the secret was replaceable elements of the build, as well as the structure’s ability to bounce back after any movement.

Pres-Lam is the name given to the construction technique, or system, incorporating Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), and steel fastening elements. LVL was made using layers of thinly milled timber stuck together with high-strength glue. When complete, it is said to be stronger than concrete.

“This system is different from conventional ones [because] the steel ‘fuses’ can be easily replaced after the earthquake and the post-tensioning bars act as rubber bands [to] bring the structure back to [its] original position after the shaking,” Palermo said.

Pres-Lam was developed at UC in 2004-2005 with fellow civil and natural engineering professor Stefano Pampanin​ and emeritus professor of timber design Andy Buchanan.

Since then, more than 10 buildings have been built in New Zealand using the technology and the Japanese market, another part of the world regularly hammered by earthquakes, has invested heavily in recent years.

Palermo said the technique was being taught to engineering students at UC, making New Zealand “a world leader in this sector”.

“By teaching our next generation of engineers this technology, and similar earthquake design philosophies applied to other materials, we will make our built infrastructure more resilient.”

The Beatrice Tinsley building is expected to be completed in 2019 as part of UC’s science precinct, and will house College of Science staff and postgraduate students.

Source: Stuff News

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