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Tallest all-steel earthquake resilient building for Wellington

Elevate Apartments

Elevate Apartments - artist's impression

1 May 2013 - Aurecon has been engaged to provide design services for the tallest steel framed residential building in Wellington.

In recent years there has been a shift in the design approach used by engineers to one that not only protects the life-safety of the occupants, but also offers protection and resilience against loss of function following a large earthquake.

Aurecon is providing structural engineering, building services, fire engineering, geotechnical engineering and thermal and daylight modelling for the new 15 storey Elevate apartments.

While these earthquake resilient buildings come at a slight cost premium, the benefits far outweigh the cost, with the building occupiable immediately following a large earthquake.

The Elevate apartments will comprise two linked towers, one with five levels of car parking and residential apartments and the other with residential apartments only. The ground floor will be street frontage with a café and retail.  

Constructed fully in steel framing, the building will have two energy absorbing structural systems to mitigate against earthquakes:

1. Energy absorbing low damage joints
The building will feature energy absorbing low damage joints in the beam-column frames designed by the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury. The joints dissipate energy from earthquakes by controlled sliding of post-tensioned steel plates, with minimum damage to the structure.

Significant research indicates these joints can undergo a series of full design earthquakes before needing replacement

This is the second time this technology has ever been used in a building, and the first time it has been used in a building of this size and complexity.  A similar design by Aurecon was used for the multi-award winning Te Puni Village at Victoria University in Wellington.

2. Large springs to prevent damage to building structure
The steel frames, taking the place of traditional shear walls, have vertical columns with diagonal steel bracing (K-frames). At the base of each frame are large springs – similar to what you may find in a railway station to cushion the impact of a runaway train. These are precision springs made in Germany.

During an earthquake these springs work dynamically to prevent damage from occurring in the building structure. Each column contains either two or four springs at the base. The springs vary in size, with the larger springs being 30 centimetres in diameter and nearly one metre tall.

Construction began in November 2012 with the piling. Estimated completion is early 2014.

It is expected that more buildings of this nature will be constructed in Wellington and other high seismic areas in the years to come.

For further information please contact:

John Finnegan
Technical Director
T: +64 4 439 0203
M: +64 21 639 329

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