Ground motion: Australian buildings endangered

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Many buildings in Australia will not survive strong ground motions

A few small to moderate earthquake events have provided data that have helped us to constrain our modelling of the potential ground motions that can be expected in Australia.

Overall, the data set is still very limited and there are barely any data for bigger seismic events. The uncertainty associated with these ground motion estimates is high. Fortunately, the soil conditions in cities like Sydney are much better than in Christchurch. Although ground motion amplification is expected in some regions that have soft soils, no widespread liquefaction is expected.

Should a severe earthquake occur underneath one of the major cities in Australia, the ground motions will significantly exceed the design ground motion of the building codes. This will inevitably lead to very high loss levels close to the earthquake epicentre.

In Christchurch, the design ground motion was exceeded by more than a factor of three. The Central Business District (CBD) had to be cordoned off for years, and many buildings suffered a total loss.

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