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Speight’s agrees to earthquake testing on small building

Media release – Otago Polytechnic
For immediate release, Wednesday August 7

Speight’s Brewery agree to earthquake testing on small building prior to demolition

The Speight’s Brewery in Dunedin is currently undergoing a major upgrade to increase capacity and capability following the loss of the Canterbury Brewery in the 2011 earthquake. A significant part of the upgrade includes seismic strengthening of the existing buildings. One of Speight’s properties that neighbours the main brewery buildings is scheduled to be demolished as part of the upgrade, and when Otago Polytechnic approached the brewer to participate in seismic strengthening tests, it was happy to agree.

On Thursday August 8th Otago Polytechnic Civil Engineering Lecturer, Dr Najif Ismail, and a cohort of Engineering students will use this building to undergo demolition and strengthening tests prior to it being demolished.

Led by Dr Ismail, this is part of a wider student project which sees Civil Engineering students gain practical experience in seismic testing; an experimental technique used to investigate the structural performance of buildings.

“Unreinforced masonry buildings constitute a large portion of New Zealand’s buildings and are widely acknowledged as the most earthquake prone class of buildings,” says Dr Najif.

In collaboration with the Dunedin City Council and with the assistance of Mapei, a world leader in the production of adhesives and chemical products for buildings, Dr Najif and his students will perform a series of tests on part of the brewery including hydraulic jacks and a variety of displacement and force sensors.

“Owing to their complex nature, small-scale standardised tests do not really reflect the performance of historic masonry buildings, necessitating full-scale destructive structural test be performed in real-life conditions.”

One Otago Polytechnic Engineering student, under Dr Najif’s supervision, completed a research study last year, identifying and recording the characteristics of masonry buildings in the central business district of Dunedin. This project helped Dunedin City Council to update the earthquake-prone building register and provided useful information for critical policy decisions.

“A large number could potentially suffer damage during a moderate to large magnitude earthquake in and around the CBD and main shopping area, but owing to historic and financial value associated to these buildings it is not viable to demolish and reconstruct new quake-resistant buildings.

“It was evident during the Christchurch earthquake series that masonry buildings do not collapse completely, whereas the unrestrained external facades, parapets and chimneys are highly susceptible to collapse. This significant falling hazard to pedestrians on adjacent streets can be eliminated at a fraction of the cost of retrofitting a full building by introducing a restraining intervention and thus motivated our current testing program.”

Dr Ismail completed his PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Auckland, having previously completed a Masters and Bachelors with Honors in Civil Engineering. The motivation behind his work comes from first-hand experience.

“I have witnessed the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which resulted in over 80,000 fatalities and left 3.5 million people homeless. I helped re-build earthquake-resistant hospitals and schools in affected communities and developed a passion to learn more about this practice area.”

Dr Ismail hopes to continue developing this curriculum for students studying Engineering at Otago Polytechnic’s School of Architecture, Building and Engineering, and says the skills they learn will be extremely relevant and valuable in New Zealand and overseas.


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