Student profile

Student Profile: Kexin Wang

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10 October 2022

Seismic loss mitigation for timber frame residential houses

I come from Shandong, China. Influenced by my grandfather who was a senior structural engineer, I showed a big interest in engineering when I was in high school. I chose civil engineering as my major and have been studying it for seven years; four years for my Bachelor’s degree, and three years for my Master’s degree. Responsibility is the most valuable thing I learned from this journey. This drives my desire to improve the safety of individuals and the resilience of our society.

I would like to say I was lucky to meet Professor Rajesh Dhakal. He visited our structure lab in Beijing when I was in the last year of my Master’s program. We had a nice conversation and I recommended myself to be his Ph.D. student. His answer was yes! I am also grateful for the scholarship offered to me by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges. That helps me to continue my research on earthquake engineering and resilience challenges. Now I am a first-year Ph.D. student at the University of Canterbury, working under Prof Rajesh Dhakal and Dr Minghao Li.

As a sports guy, I am excited to start living in New Zealand which is known for hiking and ultimate sports. I love almost all kinds of sports, especially basketball and frisbee.

My Project

The primary goal of modern seismic design standards is to minimize the risk of global structural collapse during strong ground motions. Although structures designed to these codes are sufficient for providing life safety with a high degree of confidence, through observation from worldwide earthquakes, there are still significant economic impacts in terms of direct losses and downtime. New Zealand has a high earthquake hazard, and timber is the most common structure type for residential buildings here. As shown in recent large earthquakes, most timber houses didn’t collapse, but a lot of damage occurred that could not be easily repaired, such as cracking and failure of light-framed wooden walls. In response to these losses and related downtime, it’s apparent that the seismic design of timber structures should consider all of these potential consequences and their possibility.

The topic of my project is seismic loss mitigation for timber frame residential houses. This study intends to estimate the seismic loss of timber residential buildings and determine the potential risk of earthquake loss to inform decision-making at the design stage. The key part and also the most challenging part is to combine the earthquake hazard, structure response and related economic loss.

My project builds on my Master’s thesis which focused on urban seismic resilience evaluation based on Christchurch earthquake damage information and detailed simulation. This experience provided me with a good background in seismic loss and New Zealand design codes.

Next Steps

The next steps for me are to collect the fragility data of timber structure components and find out the gaps between existing research and the relatively complete fragility database we need. Then I’ll model common layout residential houses and simulate their response when subjected to ground motions. After that, I need to build the relationship between structure performance and economic loss.

I hope my research can provide a better understanding of uncertainty and risk to timber structures and can be helpful to develop better performance-based seismic design.

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