The Insider Project: Vulnerability of Heritage buildings in New Zealand A short-term faculty-student collaboration opportunity for undergraduates

The Proposal

The insider project
  • Project Lead: Kevin Walsh, PhD, PE, LEED Green Assoc.
  • Supervisors also included faculty from the University of Auckland and the University of Otago
  • 16 undergraduate students from the College of Engineering, the School of Architecture, and the College of Science
  • Project goal/outcomes: The undergraduate students spent a week being hosted by New Zealand universities and local agencies to carry out field inspections of historic buildings in the Central Otago area. They inspected the earthquake vulnerabilities of these buildings in the context of life-cycle analyses accounting for resilience and sustainability.

Kevin Walsh talks about their work on the ground.

The connection

The Gold Rush, 1860's

Most of the heritage buildings in the Central Otago region of New Zealand were constructed during the gold rush by many of the pioneers and miners that constructed historic buildings in California during the early 1850s. Hence, a direct built heritage link exists between the US and NZ in regards to historic infrastructure.

The Focus

The economic impact

As part of this project, consideration of the impact on the economy and tourism is critical due to the potential loss of these historic assets in Central Otago.

Queenstown is the base town, which was selected based on its:
  • Accessibility
  • Proximity to cultural attractions
  • Proximity to the forecast fault rupture (Southern Alpine)
  • The extent of the historic URM building stock within the community
  • The economic ability of the community to address any earthquake vulnerabilities
Resilient and sustainable buildings

This group recognized that not all buildings designed to be sustainable, energy-efficient, and low maintenance will live up to their potential if damaged severely by a hazard. Resilient and sustainable assets require targeted mitigation to lessen the impacts from human activity and natural disasters. The move towards more resilient communities requires informed leaders to be able to identify and evaluate community-wide assets.

The Insider Grant helped fund the group's mission to address the seismic risk to several South Island communities that have notable stocks of unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings. In addition to the on-site field surveys, the Notre Dame student groups provided forecasts of building damage and debris for a suite of simulated earthquake ground records and resultant casualties that could occur.

The Work and the outcomes

On-Site Field research included the following:
  • Conducted field surveys in several communities to obtain the attributes of each historic building. Data was collated using geo-coded photographs and field notes. When possible, a drone was used to investigate elements not visible from the ground level. Check it out below.
  • Gathered Pedestrian Model data for the targeted communities. Using the model, forecasted casualty models.
  • Led by supervising architect Stacy Vallis from the University of Auckland, students collected data that will be reviewed in search of efficient retrofits that may be implemented using a precinct approach for earthquake strengthening of URM buildings. Stacy talked more about the group and what they're hoping to achieve while in Cromwell.
  • Collected data that will be used as input for damage and casualty models and for developing a suite of building fragility models that describe the full extent of historic building classes encountered in the selected communities.
  • Participated in cultural activities and economic-related discussions with community stakeholders.

Students on-site in arrowtown

Students on-site in Queenstown

interested In learning more about research opportunities in New Zealand?

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