Timber Engineering - Research - Civil Engineering Department- University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Timber Research

Resilient Seismic Design in Multi-Story Wood Buildings


Professor Andy Buchanan reviews the performance of wood, steel and concrete in seismic zones with favorable results for wood design. Case studies include new post‐tensioned timber building systems under construction in the re‐build of Christchurch, New Zealand, following the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

Natural disasters are promoting new innovations specifically for resilient or low damage design, and wood has a significant role in this design. To view wood-related seismic resources, visit http://www.rethinkwood.com/wood-meets....

There are several research themes being actively persued and several areas of funding available for research projects. These are listed and explained below.



Multi-storey timber buildings, 2 to 20+ storeys

Objective: To develop high quality multi-storey timber buildings which are safe, durable, easy to building and cost-effective for a wide variety of uses.

Team leader: Andy Buchanan
Student opportunities: Scholarships are available in many of these areas.

Building components:

  • Heavy timber beams, columns, walls
  • Prefabricated off site
  • Main structure is glulam or LVL
  • Post-tensioned buildings for seismic resistance (Pres-Lam)
  • Removable partitions and cladding
  • Timber-concrete composite floors

Performance requirements:

  • Wide open spaces: maximum flexibility
  • Residential, educational and commercial
  • Safe in fire, earthquakes, extreme weather
  • Excellent acoustics
  • Durable for hundreds of years
  • Low operational energy
  • All the sustainability benefits of wood


  • Easy to build, rapid construction

Seismic design

Video 1

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Objective: To develop new forms of Pre-Lam earthquake-resistant multi-storey timber buildings based on the latest international developments in prestressed building design.

Team leader: Stefano Pampanin
Affiliated staff: Alessandro Palermo, Tobias Smith
Postgraduate students: Chris Watson, Daniel Moroder, Francesco Sarti

Video 2

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Video 3

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  • Pres-Lam prestressed moment-resisting timber frames
  • Pres-Lam solid timber walls, single or coupled
  • Long term creep and deflections
  • Ease of construction

Fire safety

Objective: To ensure that new multi-storey timber buildings have equivalent fire safety to buildings of other materials. 

Team leader: Andy Buchanan
Affiliated staff: Mike Spearpoint, Peter Moss, Tony Abu


  • Fire safety of timber lining and cladding materials
  • Fire resistance of prestressed timber frames and walls
  • Fire resistance of timber-concrete composite floors
  • Fire code requirements in target markets