Built Environment Theme

Assoc Prof  Liam Wotherspoon

Programme Co-Leader

The University of Auckland

Prof Tim Sullivan

Programme Co-Leader

The University of Canterbury



Improving the performance of infrastructure and buildings in natural hazard events is key to supporting the continued functioning and wellbeing of the community. We will develop new tools and approaches that support the improved resistance and repairability of our horizontal infrastructure (such as roads, rail, electricity and water) and vertical infrastructure (buildings) to improve resilience in New Zealand. Our co-created projects will inform the development of new tools and processes, including consideration of future earthquake scenarios (with multiple co-seismic hazards). We will apply our state-of-the-art impact modelling to estimate direct and indirect engineering and economic consequences to help inform future codes and guidelines.

We will also examine future resilience pathways based on a range of standard or radical (new design) decision-making options. The work will include developing resilient engineering solutions to seismic hazards and tsunami. We will closely partner with industry end-users and regulatory bodies to apply new resilience knowledge to design and building codes and promote the resilience benefits for construction practices that go beyond code-compliance.




Horizontal Infrastructure

This workstream will build on the outcomes of the RNC Phase 1 Infrastructure theme, by developing:

  • Models for infrastructure component performance across a range of natural hazards.
  • Expanded geographic coverage and capabilities of infrastructure network models.
  • High resolution regional and urban interdependency models.
  • Decision making and rating tools for infrastructure.

Project lead: Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon (Auckland University)


Vertical Infrastructure 

This workstream will seek to identify effective means of reducing the damage and disruption caused by future earthquakes. The research will focus on two main research areas:

  • Quantifying and mitigating the risk (in terms of monetary losses) associated with different design solutions and building technologies.
  • Supporting the development of design and assessment standards for NZ buildings to enable enhanced performance objectives to be achieved in practice.

Project lead: Prof Tim Sullivan


Integrated Scenario

Wellington City and a major earthquake rupture will be used in this workstream as a case study in order to apply and advance modelling and analysis methods in an end-to-end fashion to provide a true appreciation of the vulnerability and impacts of Wellington in significant detail. This study will form the baseline for informing decision making, and feed into other Challenge research themes. The principal focus areas will be:

  • Physical damage to vertical infrastructure
  • Physical damage to horizontal infrastructure
  • City-wide integration of effects

Project lead: Prof Ken Elwood  (University of Auckland)


Q&A with Prof Tim Sullivan

Prof Tim Sullivan of the University of Canterbury co-leads our Built Environment programme, with a focus on Vertical Infrastructure (buildings).

Tim shares how he got into engineering, about his time working in Italy, and his current research interests.

Read more >