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Building pounding damage observed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake


Gregory Cole, Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. E-mail:


Building pounding damages observed in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake are described in this paper. The extent and severity of pounding damage is presented based on a street survey of Christchurch's central business district. Six damage severity levels and two confidence levels are defined to classify the observed damage. Generally, pounding was observed to be a secondary effect. However, over 6% of the total surveyed buildings were observed to have significant or greater pounding damage. Examples of typical and exceptional pounding damage are identified and discussed. Extensive pounding damage was observed in low-rise unreinforced masonry buildings that were constructed with no building separation. Modern buildings were also endangered by pounding when building separations were infilled with solid architectural flashings. The damage caused by these flashings was readily preventable. The observed pounding damage is compared to that observed in the September 2010 Darfield earthquake to explore if the damage could have been predicted. It is found that pounding prone buildings can be identified with reasonable accuracy by comparing configurations to characteristics previously noted by researchers. However, detailed pounding damage patterns cannot currently be precisely predicted by these methods. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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