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Kiwi scientists develop new methods of detecting earthquake damage to buildings

Scientists are developing new methods of detecting whether a building has been damaged in an earthquake.

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New technology is being developed as part of research funded by the Earthquake Commission. Source: 1 NEWS

New automated sensors will now be able to pick up changes after a quake and let the owners know if something is wrong.

Sherif Beskhyroun, programme leader and senior lecturer at AUT says every structure vibrates.

“These vibrations are induced by wind, nearby traffic, activities in the building,” he told 1 NEWS.

The sensors are being developed as part of EQC-funded research and are being trialled in a critical piece of Auckland’s infrastructure.

"Buildings vibrate all the time, in Wellington especially, just through wind.

"But in Auckland where Sherif is doing his testing, there’s the ambient traffic noise and just actually the sheer volume of people that are walking around Auckland. So you need to know what the vibration is on a normal day so you can tell if something is different after an earthquake,” said Jo Horrocks of the Earthquake Commission.

The continuous monitoring also picks up weakness caused by ageing and wear and tear.

“It’s a bit like for elderly people need to do regular checks and go to the doctor, this is exactly what we do for our buildings and if you consider blood pressure for example, you have a normal range for this pressure. if it is below or above this would indicate something wrong, so we do exactly the same for our building,” said Beskhyroun.

While sensors are currently being used elsewhere, they require large amounts of data to be analysed.

“We currently have to rely on engineers and other professionals going into buildings to see what state they’re in after a big earthquake. this technology will allow us to monitor buildings and structures remotely,” said Horrocks.