Earthquake resilience of school buildings

Recent research has improved understanding of the earthquake resilience of school buildings. Our Engineering Strategy Group (ESG) has played a significant role in undertaking this research to inform the Ministry’s policies on designing, assessing and strengthening school buildings.

Engineering Strategy Group

The ESG was established in October 2012. It provides technical leadership to help us develop policies and processes for the structural assessment and strengthening of existing school buildings and the design of new buildings. The ESG also helps to communicate these policies and put them into action.

The ESG’s work has included:

  • reviewing our policy on using building importance levels and suggesting amendments
  • providing technical guidance for the detailed engineering evaluation programme in Greater Christchurch
  • providing technical advice on prioritising the assessment and strengthening of school buildings outside of Greater Christchurch
  • undertaking a programme of work to provide further evidence of the resilience of timber-framed school buildings
  • overseeing the destructive testing of 2 standard types of timber-framed school buildings
  • developing structural and geotechnical guidance for the design of new school buildings and redevelopments.

The ESG continues to work on projects to help us and our engineering consultants improve the effectiveness and efficiency of assessing and strengthening buildings.

Investigation reports on school buildings

We have commissioned research into the earthquake resilience of school buildings. Below are recent reports detailing the findings of this research. 

Impact of earthquakes on school buildings

Opus International Consultants reviewed the performance of school buildings during the Canterbury earthquakes. The report found that, overall, school buildings performed well. Of the damage to school buildings in Christchurch, a large proportion of it was the result of ground deformation.

To read the report, go to Canterbury Earthquakes – Impact on the Ministry of Education's School Buildings [PDF, 4.7 MB].

Catalogue of standard school building types

This catalogue identifies standard building types in the Canterbury region. Some are found throughout the whole country.

For more information on the categories of buildings, go to catalogue of standard school building types [PDF, 9.6 MB].

Nelson 2-storey blocks intrusive investigations

Nelson blocks are the most common type of buildings in secondary schools. Beginning as ‘T’ blocks, their layout was later extended (as schools grew) to form a symmetrical ‘H’ shape. We undertook intrusive investigations of 2-storey nelson blocks at Upper Hutt College and Mairehau High School, to confirm that the ‘H’ blocks should be assessed as a single integral building, rather than as distinct end and central blocks. As a result, the bracing capacity needed in the transverse direction has been higher than was previously estimated.

To read the report, go to Two Storey Nelson Block – Physical Inspection Findings and Implications on Detailed Seismic Assessment Results [PDF, 1.1 MB].

More reports detailing research commissioned by us into timber-framed school buildings specifically are on timber-framed school buildings earthquake resilience.

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