Up to 29 Dunedin churches will be analysed by international
seismologists and engineers as part of a nationwide research
project aimed at gauging their seismic fitness in the event
of an earthquake.
The two-year project, funded by the Earthquake Commission,
will involve scientists from New Zealand, Italy and Portugal
developing a seismic vulnerability index for unreinforced
masonry churches and historic buildings to help with
decisions on retrofitting to prevent damage in future
Initially, they will use data from 48 unreinforced masonry
churches in Canterbury, which suffered damage in the
Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
It will be compared with structural data from 29 Dunedin
churches, including Knox Church, St Paul's Cathedral and
Sacred Heart Church, as well as 11 churches in Wellington and
50 churches in Auckland.
Project leader Tatiana Goded, of GNS Science, said there was
no standard or systematic way to assess the earthquake
vulnerability of New Zealand churches at the moment.
The project would be based on a proven method used in Europe
to assess the vulnerability of churches and monuments, she
''However, we will need to calibrate this method to ensure it
is accurate for New Zealand conditions.''
University of Canterbury civil and natural resources
engineering lecturer and group spokeswoman Sonia Giovinazzi
said the geometric features of Dunedin's churches would be
compared with those in Christchurch to identify weak links in
the designs which may cause them to collapse in an
The data would be used to create a ''1 to 5 type'' index
where type 1 churches were relatively vulnerable, and type 5
churches were the least at risk, she said.
It was hoped the data would also provide information on how
to mitigate against those vulnerabilities.
The project was the first step towards assessing all historic
buildings in the country, to preserve New Zealand's cultural
and historical heritage, Dr Giovinazzi said.
The group was focusing on churches initially because their
height, shape and dimension made them particularly vulnerable
in earthquakes, she said.
If funding permitted, the group would continue the project to
look at buildings such as the Dunedin Railway Station,
University of Otago buildings, Larnach Castle and other
heritage buildings around New Zealand.
Dr Goded said churches in New Zealand's four main centres had
been selected to ensure a fair cross section of seismic
scenarios in New Zealand, but at this stage GNS Science has
released the names of only three churches per city that it
will be researching.
The project leaders declined to supply the names of the other
churches without first obtaining permission from their