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ESR's Laura Banasiak co-authors award winning paper on seismic isolation

05 July 2021

A paper co-authored by ESR's Laura Banasiak has won the 2021 International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Outstanding (Scientific) Paper Award. The paper, just the second from New Zealand to earn this prestigious award in the past 30 years, looks at how shredded tyres could be used in novel seismic isolation building foundation applications.

The award-winning paper Eco-rubber Seismic-Isolation Foundation Systems: A Sustainable Solution for the New Zealand Context details the authors' research into recycling waste tyres for use in seismic isolation techniques that could help protect buildings – and more importantly the people inside – during earthquakes.

Laura co-authored the paper with Ernesto Hernández (PhD Student), Alessandro Palermo (Professor), Gabriele Granello (Lecturer), and Gabriele Chiaro (Associate Professor) from the University of Canterbury, where trials have been taking place. The research team, led by Associate Professor Chiaro, studied various ways to utilise tyres in buildings for seismic isolation, including integrating tyre rubber into steel fibre-reinforced concrete and rubberising concrete itself, which would involve substituting the natural aggregates like sand with shredded tyre rubber.

"I am proud of Laura's contribution to this work," says Libby Harrison, ESR Joint General Manager Health & Environment (Environment).

"This work shows real initiative from Laura and the team, led by University of Canterbury and funded by the MBIE Smart Ideas fund. It is great to see a collaboration with our close University neighbours in Christchurch winning such an outstanding award."

If you've been on a tour of Parliament, you might have seen the black rubber and lead base isolators in the basement, upon which the Beehive sits. Seismic isolation allows buildings to move to a degree during an earthquake, but, as the name suggests, dampens and slows down building movement and acceleration.

One application would see a tyre rubber-gravel mix cover the entire base of a building, rather than conventional base isolators that separate the building from its earth foundations. According to the paper, this cost-effective approach reduces by at least 40 per cent the accelerations and consequential seismic inertial forces exerted by earthquakes.

The research is something of a win-win from an environmental perspective, as the techniques present a non-invasive, straightforward method for shoring up small to medium sized buildings and protecting their inhabitants during earthquakes, while also helping deal with the massive problem posed by difficult to dispose of waste tyres.

As the paper notes:

'Seismic isolation with energy dissipation has the ability to significantly improve the seismic performance of buildings and structures. Historically, seismic isolation has been applied to buildings with special functional requirements and bridges.

Nevertheless, its application to create new earthquake-resilient residential housing is feasible and would be of great significance in New Zealand. On the other hand, waste tyres production and management are posing great environmental problems in New Zealand. However, waste tyres are a great source of environmentally-friendly and sustainable building materials.'

"This research could lead to important breakthroughs in the protection of New Zealand buildings from devastating earthquakes while making sure our groundwater systems are protected," says Murray Close, Manager Groundwater.

You can read the paper here.