Christchurch earthquake engineer claims top science award
A Christchurch earthquake engineer hopes the top science prize he has won will give the public more confidence in those researching one of New Zealand's biggest challenges.
Canterbury University Professor of earthquake engineering Brendon Bradley won the Prime Minister's Emerging Scientist Prize for his research on the effects of ground shaking caused by earthquakes.
The five annual Prime Minister's Science Prizes were awarded at a ceremony in Wellington on Tuesday, recognising scientific achievement in New Zealand.
Bradley said he was glad the prize highlighted the importance of earthquake science in New Zealand.
"I hope that, from a public perspective, they will take some confidence that myself and other researchers in the field are among the best of researchers across all the disciplines, given how important this problem is for New Zealand," he said.
"It's great from the perspective of acknowledging the work of the many collaborators that I've worked with, and also lots of students, just for them to realise the value in the research that they're doing."
Bradley received $200,000, with $150,000 of that to be used for further research.
His research is being used to set new international building design codes, and several major rebuilding projects in Christchurch are being influenced by his findings.
The prize recognises Bradley's sophisticated seismic hazard analysis and assessment modelling, and his pioneering ground motion simulation to identify and mitigate earthquake impacts.
Bradley's modelling relies on physics-based data, examining the geological and geophysical properties of rock and soil at specific locations.
This differs from traditional ground motion modelling, based primarily on observation and generalised information.
"We can't predict when an earthquake will hit but we can predict how strong the ground shaking will be at certain geographic locations," he said.
He experienced the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes in Canterbury and was in Tokyo during the magnitude-9 Tohoku Japan earthquake in March 2011.
Seismic analysis enables building designers to strike a balance between resilience and economics.
"It's not economic to design most infrastructure for the worst earthquake we can ever imagine because all buildings would look like bomb shelters," Bradley said.
"Some buildings and infrastructure are too important to fail so we have to make sure we mitigate the consequences of those suffering substantial earthquake damage and make them more resilient.
"In other cases, perhaps we can afford to have some damage without excessive flow-on consequences."
Bradley is currently on sabbatical at Stanford University in California, where he is collaborating on textbook outlining the level of resilience required for buildings to withstand various earthquake magnitudes.