Council to install sensors to improve earthquake resilience

The city council will be the first in the world to install a dense mass of ground accelerometers sensors across the city to create an Earthquake Response Network, to determine how its buildings have stood up to earthquakes and whether they are safe to occupy.

As part of its Smart Cities programme, it is partnering with Canterbury Seismic Instruments to deploy a city-wide network that measures ground shaking.

The network would provide accurate data on ground shaking levels to determine how buildings have fared based on their individual design limits and what action is needed.

The city council will also install additional sensors in its “critical” buildings to directly measure how they respond to the shaking, which would be immediately sent to the building manager’s phone.

The network will consist of more than 100 other Canterbury Seismic Instruments sensors scattered around the city.

The information will be shared with building owners, Civil Defence and research agencies.

Smart Cities programme manager Teresa McCallum said it was a “global first” to monitor city-wide ground shaking and get instant access to a wealth of city data.

“This will provide us with defendable decision-making for our emergency response teams.”

“We hope to become the most seismically-prepared city in the world.”

Soil and ground conditions meant earthquake shaking levels across the city were “hugely variable”.

Ms McCallum said existing GeoNet stations were too far apart to measure exact shaking levels. The sensor network would deliver ground shaking information on a block by block, and building by building, basis.

When an earthquake hit, the sensors would identify the most affected areas and resources could be prioritised there, she said.

Ms McCallum said the ground shaking sensors would be installed in the central city first, followed by Papanui, Addington and Sydenham and other residential suburbs.

An installation date, the cost, and the “critical” buildings were yet to be determined, she said.

Last week, Harcourts real estate agent Christopher Chapman was cleared of disgraceful conduct by the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal after a tenant and customer in the building he managed were killed by falling masonry in the February 22, 2011 earthquake.

Apprentist tattooist Matthew McEachen and customer Rachel Conley were killed as they tried to flee the Colombo St building that housed Southern Ink.

The building was not structurally sound to be occupied after the September 2010 earthquake, but Mr Chapman never informed Southern Ink owner Matt Parkin.

City councillor Deon Swiggs said peoples’ lives were reliant on the buildings they occupied being structually sound.

The sensors meant they could be assessed by science rather than an after the fact investigation, he said.

“It’s about constantly improving buildings and making them safer and safer, because we never want what happened in the February earthquake to happen again.”