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    Rights: University of Waikato. All rights reserved.
    Published 23 July 2015 Referencing Hub media

    Professor Andy Buchanan from the University of Canterbury is a world-leading researcher in the use of timber in earthquake-resistant buildings. His research is leading new global interest in using timber for multi-storey structures.

    Professor Buchanan dominated the KiwiNet Awards 2015, winning the BNZ Supreme Award, the People’s Choice Award and the Researcher Entrepreneur Award.

    Professor Buchanan and Bill Lee, Commercial Director at Canterbury University, discuss the nature and potential of this research for the building industry.


    Professor Andy Buchanan from the University of Canterbury is a world-leading researcher in the use of timber in earthquake-resistant buildings.

    Professor Andy Buchanan

    Ten years ago when we were doing earthquake engineering research, we realised that we had to somehow come up with a way of designing buildings that wouldn’t be damaged after the earthquake. And the concrete people were doing it, the steel people were doing it, and we said, “Let’s try it in wood.” And the whole idea was this: if we have an earthquake, and the building gets shaken about, it snaps right back to where it started.

    Bill Lee
    Well, I’ve been lucky enough to travel overseas with Andy to Canada and Japan, which are both wood-centric economies, and also they’ve got a very severe earthquake problem. And he’s a world guru, basically.

    Professor Andy Buchanan
    We got $5 million of industry money. We went to the government. They matched that money, and we then had an R&D programme, which has resulted in buildings like this. It’s a renewable resource, it’s sustainable, it’s lightweight, it’s strong. In terms of earthquake performance or fire safety or cost, wood can match steel or concrete. But in addition to that, we’ve got the low energy and the low carbon footprint of the wood buildings.

    Working with industry from day one, Professor Buchanan is creating technologies that will change the way timber is used in construction around the world.

    Bill Lee
    The university got involved because it could immediately see that there was commercial potential out of research.

    Professor Andy Buchanan
    The world is watching what’s happening here in New Zealand. Timber buildings used to be thought of as two or three-storey buildings. Now, there are five, six-storey buildings. There’s a 10-storey building just been finished in Australia, even 30-storey buildings in wood. There’s this enormous demand for tall timber buildings around the world for reasons of sustainability and renewability and low carbon, but what the world doesn’t have is a way of making these buildings earthquake-proof. So that’s what we’ve got.

    Bill Lee
    The technology is so good it’ll become a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a perfect example of what can be done with clever scientists at a university aided with a commercialisation function meeting a market need.

    Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
    © Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2015