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Engineers now playing vital role in the Christchurch rebuild

Engineers now playing vital role in the Christchurch rebuild

January 7, 2014

Engineers are playing a vital role in the Christchurch rebuild from assisting safe building design to assistance in aerial mapping, providing ICT solutions and working with insurance companies, a University of Canterbury (UC) engineering expert says.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Engineering Professor Jan Evans-Freeman says that many staff and students in UC’s Engineering College are working across a large number of varied projects in the city rebuild.

``Staff in the Spatial Engineering Research Centre have been carrying out aerial surveys of the changing landscape to assist with the future shape of Christchurch. We are also carrying out geotechnical engineering work with CERA and the Christchurch City Council and a postgraduate student is looking at ways to describe spatial patterns and geo-fault lines in geology.  

``Our UC Quake Centre has a BECA engineer coming in one day a week to looking at engineering issues, and we are working with various ceiling and wall industries.  We have received at least one part of a major multi-storeyed failed building to test.

``We are working on steel fabricators and wooden structures, while other staff are discussing future transport and cycleways requirements as the city grows again. Another student is collaborating with the insurance industry.

``We are researching the benefits of wood in new structures and to assist our understanding an honours student has surveyed architects asking why they often don’t use wood in their designs.  We are researching the potential impacts of liquefaction on trees in the urban environment.

``In electrical engineering our robots are inspecting structures deemed too hazardous for humans, and we are working on projects such as sensors for a smarter city. We have studied the way Orion managed to keep the power system up so effectively during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.’’

Professor Evans-Freeman says there has been significant interest in studying engineering at UC, and the levels of applications for study in 2014 are at pre-quake levels. There is also significantly increased interest from overseas students wishing to pursue an engineering degree at UC.

UC is spending up to $140 million on the revamp of the engineering facilities on campus over the next five years. Professor Evans-Freeman says the refurbished facilities in Christchurch will consolidate UC as the premier Engineering College in New Zealand.

``We will be intimately linked with the most exciting large scale city project in the history of New Zealand. It will attract more students and researchers to come and study and work here and we will be in a very strong position to provide increased highly skilled workforce and expertise for the city.

``UC’s civil engineering department is ranked 21st in the world. This is in part due to the amazing pedigree of innovation and quality teaching, and partly because of the opportunities the Christchurch rebuild has offered for ground-breaking research in this particular department.

``However, other skills across engineering will also be required such as power supply safety and sustainability, smart sensors for the city, engineering project management, geotechnical engineering and information technology.

``Engineering at UC is uniquely located in a city reinventing itself and our graduates and staff have all the skills required to be deeply involved in the future of the city. This is an exceptional opportunity for us and we plan to ensure our local community gains the maximum benefit from our presence.’’


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 Professor Jan Evans-Freeman at UC’s structural testing laboratory

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