03 Sep 2018

Christchurch City Council is partnering with a local company to install a dense urban network of seismic sensors that will help build the city’s earthquake resilience.

As part of its Smart Cities Programme it has committed to spending $765,000 over three years on installing and monitoring ground accelerometer sensors at 150 locations throughout Christchurch.

Teresa McCallum with one of the new sensors.

Smart Cities Programme Manager Teresa McCallum with one of the new ground accelerometer sensors. 

EQRNet and its sensors, developed by Canterbury Seismic Instruments (CSI), measure ground shaking and will provide critical, real-time information for building owners, lease-holders, engineers, and Civil Defence in the event of another quake.

They will also provide an ongoing source of valuable data about ground movement across Christchurch which engineers, research organisations and authorities can use to understand the resilience of the city’s built environment.

“We are breaking new ground in establishing such a dense network of seismic monitoring in an urban environment. It is going to change the Christchurch narrative from one of seismic risk to one of seismic resilience,’’ says Christchurch City Council Smart Cities Programme Manager Teresa McCallum.

“What we learned from the Canterbury earthquakes is that there is huge variability in the ground shaking experienced. Proximity to the source of the quake, the direction of the ground shaking and local ground conditions causes significant variability in ground shaking across the city.

“Our existing GeoNet stations provide a baseline of data in an earthquake, but we need more. The EQRNet initiative with CSI has created an affordable model that encourages uptake by public agencies and commercial users alike so that we can deploy a dense network of sensors across Christchurch and confidently produce a citywide shake map.

“The benefits that we’ll gain, in terms of minimising disruption after an event and building our resilience, far outweigh the costs of the sensors.’’

Ms McCallum says the sensors are being placed across the city at locations where there is critical infrastructure.

“When we get another quake, big or small, they will provide invaluable information so we can tailor our response accordingly. Businesses and decision-makers will be able to get information immediately about the most affected areas and will be able to prioritise resources accordingly,’’ Ms McCallum says.

“Our aim is to have all our sensors installed by the end of the year but we’re hoping the private sector will jump on board and add their own sensors to the network.  The more sensors we have in the network, the stronger our resilience as a city.’’

CSI General Manager Len Damiano says, “CSI is very pleased to be collaborating with Smart Cities to deliver a more seismically resilient future for our city.   The support and encouragement from the Smart Cities team has been essential in enabling us to deliver our shared vision”.   

Whilst seismic instrumentation in itself is not a new idea, CSI’s lessons from the Canterbury, Seddon and Kaikoura earthquakes have been instrumental in the development of EQRNet. 

“We need immediate, useful data on the impact across the city; defensible decisions from reliable information.  This benefits everyone from private individuals to business to critical infrastructure”, explains Dr Hamish Avery, CSI’s Chief Technical Officer. 

“EQRNet is a new and unique way of delivering this; a global first making Christchurch the most seismically prepared city in the world”.