Post-earthquake structural design for fire - a New Zealand perspective
On Tuesday 22 February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city. The ‘earthquake’ was in fact an aftershock to an earlier 7.1 magnitude earthquake that had occurred on Saturday 4 September 2010. There were a number of key differences between the two events that meant they had dramatically different results for Christchurch and its inhabitants. The 22 February 2011 event resulted in one of New Zealand’s worst natural disasters on record, with 185 fatalities occurring and hundreds more being injured. In addition, a large number of buildings either collapsed or were damaged to the point where they needed to be totally demolished. Since the initial earthquake in September 2010, a large amount of building-related research has been initiated in New Zealand to investigate the impact of the series of seismic events – the major focus of these research projects has been on seismic, structural and geotechnical engineering matters. One project, however, conducted jointly by the University of Canterbury, the Fire Protection Association of New Zealand and BRANZ, has focused on the performance of fire protection systems in the earthquakes and the effectiveness of the systems in the event of post-earthquake fires occurring. Fortunately, very few fires actually broke out following the series of earthquake events in Christchurch, but fire after earthquakes still has significant implications for the built environment in New Zealand, and the collaborative research has provided some invaluable insight into the potential threat posed by post-earthquake fires in buildings. As well as summarising the damage caused to fire protection systems, this paper discusses the flow-on effect for designing structures to withstand post-earthquake fires. One of the underlying issues that will be explored is the existing regulatory framework in New Zealand whereby structural earthquake design and structural design for fire are treated as discrete design scenarios.