Earthquake engineering test facility opens in Canterbury

By: Media Release

The University of Canterbury has just opened a newly constructed high-end test hall for earthquake engineering research.

The Structural Engineering Laboratory (SEL) took over a year to complete and required technical expertise from a wide range of consultants, contractors and top civil engineers working collaboratively to deliver the highly complex and challenging project.

Professor Des Bull, practicing engineer and adjunct professor for UC’s civil and natural engineering department commented: "This was a hellishly technical build – well outside what normal contractors are required to do. Not just in the design, but in terms of managing the materials, the delivery and the construction."

Comprising a 500sqm strong floor and a 9m high L-shaped reaction wall 29m long, the test hall is designed to take a large two to three-storey structure up to 12m wide and around 18m long.

The strong floor is 2m deep, the reaction wall is 1.6m thick and together they contain 3607 anchor points which allow such structures to be bolted onto them. These structures can then be loaded through hydraulic rams in a variety of ways to simulate earthquakes.

Professor Bull added: "There is an extraordinary amount of material in this building. There’s 400 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 1440 cubic metres of concrete in both the floor and wall, with an extra 32 tonnes of weight in the anchor-point assemblies alone.

"These assemblies had to be laid to an accuracy of 2mm in three dimensions and then a variety of concrete mixes used to ensure an easy flow through the reinforcing cages, requisite strength and low heat during curing. The floor took 12 hours to pour and used three pumps, 178 concrete trucks and 47 men.

"So it required a feat of logistics alongside high precision engineering to complete this building to a standard that would satisfy the University’s needs, and it couldn’t have done that better."

There is already 18 months of research projects booked into the SEL, and a great deal of interest from international organisations, both to use the testing facilities or around the potential to invest in its future development.

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