Learning from QuakeCoRE 2018: Why collaboration and innovation lead to resilient cities

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“QuakeCoRE is the research centre for seismic resilience and promotes collaboration between New Zealand research centres as well as overseas universities.”

INSIGHT BY: RICHARD VOSS & DR BRIDGETTE SULLIVAN-TAYLOR

It was a privilege to join over 200 delegates at the recent QuakeCoRE Conference in Taupo, New Zealand. Attendees were a mix of researchers, practitioners and postgraduate students, as well as members from local government and industry bodies.  QuakeCoRE is the research centre for seismic resilience and promotes collaboration between New Zealand research centres as well as overseas universities.

As part of the conference, iwi stakeholders hosted a wānanga. This educational gathering looked at ways Kaupapa Maori could be consulted on seismic resilience for Maori communities.  Among the highlights at the conference was an inspiring haka and presentation by a local iwi youth group. The importance of whanau and local history of the area reinforced the conference theme, which was the need to form enduring relationships to facilitate disaster management recovery. 

The programme included over 70 “poster presentations” of various QuakeCoRE research projects. This gave researchers the opportunity to discuss their research not only with other QuakeCoRE researchers, but also with the wider pool of delegates. An interesting synergy between research projects was discovered “on the floor”. No doubt the lively communication in this type of forum leads to new ideas and innovation in resilience.

Importantly, there was also a high level of student attendees. Students got the chance to hone their conference presentation skills through a series of afternoon sessions known as “Lightning Talks”, which included Marion Tan's award-winning presentation on her disaster recovery app.

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Conference speakers included New Zealand experts such as Reagan Chandramohan, David Johnston, Rick Henry, Garry McDonald, Caroline Orchiston, Roger Sutton, Keri Ryan, Laura Wallace, Liam Wotherspoon and distinguished international experts such as Lucy Jones and Anne Wein, who both shared their insights from the United States. This account will not be able to fully convey the diversity and depth of the talks, ranging from infrastructure resilience and finite engineering principles, to the importance of community resilience. We outline here some of our key learnings from QuakeCoRE 2018.

Lucy Jones shared her knowledge from research conducted in the United States and explained that in the past, disaster planning may have been adversely affected by “confirmation bias” in the analysis of seismic statistical risk. Clear delineation between seismic scientific analysis and policy decision makers can build more resilient cities. Anne Wein presented the HayWired research project from California, which evaluates potential disruption along the Californian fault line. The fault line is adjacent to some of the World’s largest metropolitan areas. The HayWired scenarios demonstrate how power, water, bridges and transportation systems will be affected and shows that disruption to infrastructure can last anything from a few days to 2–3 years, depending on the magnitude of the potential earthquake.

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Reagan Chandramohan analysed the effect of “duration” in seismic engineering. Ultimately, longer duration of a seismic action can further increase the instability of a building as well as the actual force present. Rick Henry explained how “low-damage buildings” will influence seismic engineering, with engineers designing buildings for repair and not solely around life protection. Researchers in New Zealand are now benefiting from using large test shake tables, such as at Tongji University in China.

Laura Wallace of GNS Science explained the unpredictable risk associated with the Hikurangi Subduction Zone fault line to the East of New Zealand’s North Island. Further investment in research will assist in scenario planning for a possible seismic and tsunami event here as, due to its proximity in the seabed, it is one of the lesser known fault lines in New Zealand. Liam Wotherspoon explained that the mapping of our infrastructure in New Zealand needs to be maintained during and after the seismic events, with research on how various seismic events affect highway, railway, power, water, solid-waste and other critical services. There always needs to be a balance between the robustness of this infrastructure and redundancy in any supply system.

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Caroline Orchiston outlined findings of the Southern Alpine Fault Research Project (AF8). There have been 27 seismic events on this fault line in the last 8,000 years, so the likelihood of another seismic event occurring here is increasing. Obviously, the scenario planning will not only need to address life safety goals, but also service the infrastructural continuity that supports tourism in the South Island of New Zealand.

Roger Sutton explained that there is a “10% Rule” in seismic disaster recovery. The “10% Rule” projects are quick, lower budget building projects, which ultimately will have a big impact in “keeping people and activity in the city”. That is of paramount importance after an earthquake. Roger also explained the importance of effective collaboration among grassroots communities during the recovery period.

It was great to be surrounded by so many positive thinkers and doers in what at times seems like a daunting challenge - making our cities and communities resilient. As one speaker said, disaster recovery is neither a sprint or a marathon, but an undefined adventure run. We will need a multitude of stakeholders to participate in this (iwi, government, researchers, consultants and industry) as the learnings in disaster recovery are ever evolving in terms of engineering, economics and social science. 

Dr Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor, Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland Business School.

Richard Voss, Director at Ignite Architects.

QuakeCoRE aims to establish and link national, multi-institutional research programmes that are internationally networked.  These research programmes advance the science and implementation pathways of earthquake resilience through system-level science, with highly integrated collaborations coordinated across the physical, engineering and social sciences and relevant research institutions. QuakeCoRE’s research is organised into Technology Platforms, Flagship Programmes, Integrative Projects and Special Projects.