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Christchurch best place in the world to be a civil engineer

Christchurch best place in the world to be a civil and natural resources engineer right now

October 17, 2012

A leading University of Canterbury (UC) engineer says there is no better time to study engineering at UC than the present following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Acting head of UC’s civil and natural resources engineering David Wareham says there is nothing like a disaster to focus people’s attention on the huge role that engineers play in making a city work and the huge responsibility they bear in the protection of human life.

He was responding to a report yesterday by Stephen Hogg, technical director for engineering firm Aurecon, who has just returned from the 15th world conference on earthquake engineering in Portugal, attended by over 3000 delegates.

Hogg said that after listening to world experts discussing earthquake engineering design, it reinforced the fact that Christchurch, backed by the University of Canterbury, leads the world.

Associate Professor Wareham said engineers were responsible for a variety of city infrastructure systems ranging from telecommunications, transport, water and waste systems and electrical and power systems through to the design of large buildings and other structures. These systems were all tested severely in the recent Christchurch earthquakes.

``Many of the academics at UC were seconded to be part of the building inspection teams that classified the structural integrity of the buildings hardest hit in the downtown core of Christchurch while several of them testified before the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission of Inquiry,’’ he said.

``Many of the engineers lending their expert opinion to the royal commission on the behaviour of the buildings were ex-graduates of the University of Canterbury.

``Notwithstanding the fact that many of our infrastructure systems proved robust, the scale of the disaster means there is a great deal of work to be done in terms of rebuilding Christchurch. Correspondingly, now is an exciting opportunity to study in particular civil and natural resources engineering at UC.’’

Doing an undergraduate degree at UC is like having open access to a lab because construction activity is happening on a scale and at a pace never before seen in New Zealand, Associate Professor Wareham said.

The type of intense, real-time experience is available nowhere else in New Zealand nor is it commonplace throughout the world, he said.

``The demand for engineers is incredibly high and likely to remain so for many years to come; thus, engineers are snatched up as fast as the University of Canterbury can graduate them. It is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the largest rebuild in New Zealand’s history,’’ he said.

The role of the next generation of engineers will be crucial during the Christchurch rebuild. Holmes Consulting Group project engineer Renee Brook said most of the engineers in her Christchurch office were UC graduates like her.

``Holmes Consulting is the largest specialist structural engineering firm in New Zealand with a staff of over 100 in five offices as well as an office in San Francisco. We work on some of the biggest and most iconic projects in New Zealand and a large proportion of them are designed by UC graduates,’’ Brook said.

``I think UC has a unique opportunity to be teaching engineers that are going to help create the Christchurch of the future. I'm excited to be involved in the Christchurch rebuild and to have a hand in building some of these special new buildings.

``I'm excited that in years to come I will be able to say that I had a hand in creating some fantastic buildings that helped shape the new Christchurch. I mean, what structural engineer doesn't want to be in Christchurch at the moment?’’ Brook said.


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