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Ensuring Building Safety

For immediate release
30 November 2004


Buildings are being erected in every spare section of land in Auckland City at a rapid rate but do the new building materials meet old regulations? A PhD engineering student at The University of Auckland is setting out to ensure that buildings are constructed safely.

Civil Engineering student Nick Brooke has been looking at whether the current building rules are still relevant when using new reinforcing steel in concrete-frame buildings.

Funded by the Earthquake Commission Research Foundation, the aim of the research is to ensure construction standards are maintained.

"There are a set of requirements and performance levels that must be achieved to make sure these buildings are up to standard," says Nick.

"These rules have been around for sometime so I carried out tests to see whether the existing rules still worked when using the new materials."

Testing involved constructing a small section of a reinforced concrete frame building.

Nick then simulated the loading of an earthquake on the section to see whether the performance of the structure was affected by the use of the new material.

His research is helping in a review of the building rules and the Greenlane resident says his findings show that the current design rules are reliable.

"We don't need major adjustments. The rules appear to be slightly conservative, so the rules and regulations could possibly be loosened up a bit.

"We can conclude that construction of buildings is safe using reinforced steel concrete frame under the current rules."

With this phase of Nick's PhD now complete, he hopes to look into new innovative and effective methods for constructing buildings using pre cast concrete.

Precast concrete is formed in moulds offsite which are then trucked onto the construction site.

"I'll be looking into better ways of putting the precast concrete together onsite," says the 23 year old.

The local construction industry has shown a strong interest in Nick's research.

"Concrete has been seen as too messy on site and taking to long to construct, which has seen a growing interest in steel over the years. My findings will hopefully help lift the use of concrete.

And while his research makes headlines in the construction industry, Nick is making a mark at

The University of Auckland winning the top prize in the Faculty of Engineering's Postgraduate Society Poster Competition.

The competition provided an opportunity for students to display their current research by communicating in a manor that people other than engineers would understand.

Nick says the competition was a good way of developing skills to explain the technical aspect of his study to non-specialist audiences.

"It was a bit of a challenge to break it down into to simple terms but to win this prize is a huge honour. It's always nice to be recognised in front of your peers."

Nick says his interest in construction comes from a fascination with bridges.

"I've had an interest in bridges since I was young so when staff from the Faculty of Engineering came to my school for a careers day I knew it was the natural direction for me."

After already completing a four-year Bachelor of Engineering degree specialising in Civil Engineering, and two years to go on his PhD, Nick hopes to utilise his skills and knowledge to design bridges.


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