Rondo has published a free white paper examining the role of the architect and engineer in minimising the impact of earthquakes, and the technological advances influencing seismic design.

The building industry in Australia and New Zealand is increasingly seeking seismic design solutions, especially for commercial projects. The 2011 Christchurch earthquake, which killed 185 people and cost an estimated $40 billion in rebuilding, brought home the devastating reality of the damaging consequences of a quake.

Though building codes have always specified design requirements for seismic events, sufficient awareness and understanding of measures have been lacking for the rules to be adequately implemented.

Recent events and changes to design standards now require new construction projects to be more comprehensive in terms of their safety and structural integrity to be suitably prepared for the rigours of geological movement and other environmental hazards.

It is, therefore, important for architects to be aware of the statutory requirements of incorporating effective seismic design into their building projects.

Earthquakes are unavoidable; what is avoidable is the potential extent of damage that may occur during such an event. The architect and engineer are responsible for minimising the potential damage of earthquakes by using the latest advancements in research and technology to increase the capacity of buildings to withstand movements.

The primary concern when it comes to structural design for earthquakes is the lateral force-resisting system of the building. In most cases, this involves roof and floor diaphragms for horizontal distribution, as well as shear walls and rigid frames for vertical bracing. Failure of these elements can impact the structural integrity of the building after ground motion, resulting in major damage, including the possibility of total collapse. Correct planning and design of these elements will go a long way in ensuring the effects are minimised.

The Rondo white paper titled ‘Seismic Shift: The Focus on Seismic Design in Commercial Building Projects’ can be downloaded online.