21 March 2011

Which three buildings in Canberra are earthquake resistant?

| johnboy
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The Canberra Times has an interesting interview with the Australian Seismological Centre’s Kevin McCue who comes across as a little weary.

Intriguingly he tells that the only buildings in Canberra built to withstand an earthquake are Parliament House, the Deakin phone exchange, and Black Mountain Tower.

Mr McCue is concerned about the lack of earthquake-resistant buildings in Canberra and can only list three structures that have been built to withstand a violent tremor; Black Mountain Tower, Parliament House and Deakin Telephone Exchange. ”The Commonwealth Department of Works considered earthquake resistance for Commonwealth buildings but phased that out in the late 1970s. Nowadays we have a building certifier who does the same thing but doesn’t have the same training in earthquake engineering. Our hospitals have not been designed to withstand earthquakes and neither have our schools.”

Is this something we should be concerned about though?

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Yes woken up here also. Was like a big truck rumbling past for about 30 seconds or so. Thought I dreamt it but apparently not!

My house just withstood an earthquake.

Anybody else woken up by that?

creative_canberran5:29 pm 21 Mar 11

The building in Deakin on Kent St behind the exchange belongs to Department of Defence. A quick search of their website reveals what’s it really about:

It’s the 6th search result down. The summary is still there but the link is now broken. No surprise, it totally gives it away!

Christchurch is a known earthquake area and buildings have been built over time to the codes in force at the time. The fact that so many toppled or were damaged was because:
a) the quake exceeded the building code design limits
b) the code has changed over time so older buildings used older design methods
c) liquefaction of the ground defeats any structural features intended to withstand tremors

So the short answer is “earthquake proof” is only as good as the design code at time of construction and can only cope with so much.

Regarding the Deakin telephone exchange, no real surprise there. It was formerly home to the NASA Communications Centre and was the fundamental link between NASA, JPL and Canberra Deep Space Network stations at Tidbinbilla, Honeysuckle and Orroral. Doubtful it serves any other purpose, the glass door on the front isn’t exactly high security. As above, building behind though is the Defence server centre. Has been for decades.

shirty_bear said :

Andrews also did ANU’s Toad Hall. Bit of a design theme emerging there.

Ugh, yeah, concrete! Toad was a cold, bleak place. I’m glad that concrete kick has had its day.

JustYou said :

I thought the Cameron Offices in Belconnen were also classed as earthquake proof????

Likely you’re thinking of Callam Offices in Woden. Same architect (John Andrews). I knew Andrews’ son well; he would go on chapter and verse about how neither was constructed in the intended manner. Callam (or the CIT as it was back then) was supposed to be many pods; they only built the three, thus theoretically weakening the earhquake-proof-ness. Cameron was designed to link up directly into Belco Mall, hence the weird layouts, split-levels, walkways to nowhere, etc.
Andrews also did ANU’s Toad Hall. Bit of a design theme emerging there.

I thought the Cameron Offices in Belconnen were also classed as earthquake proof????

I think we should be as concerned about this as we are about tsunamis and nuclear reactor meltdowns.

Lazy, provincial journalism: take whatever is in the news and spin it for a local angle.

Gungahlin Al12:59 pm 21 Mar 11

They forgot that little room in Questacon. I know it keeps falling apart with every quake, but their solution is to make it really easy to put back together each time.

As unlikely as it might be that an earthquake will occur here, it’s nice to know where to run to, baby.

I was told that the antenna structure at the top of Black Mountain is designed to sheer off and fall in a strong earth quake. Do not expect to much TV coverage after the earthquake. Does that make it count as resistant when one of the biuldings major functions is destroyed?

In February 2000 or 2001, there was a size 3.1 tremor about 30km from Canberra. At the time CT reported that the New Zealand high commission was built to withstand earthquakes.

Deakin telecom exchange? I believe there were many rumours back in the day about that building’s REAL purpose. Makes you wonder.

I bet the old Canberra Hospital would have withstood an earthquake.

Dalton, just up the road, is quite earthquake-prone. Even off the big fault lines, you can still have seismic activity.

There was talk, around the time of the hospital im/explosion, of Canberra House being the sturdiest building in Canberra.

I’m not really certain it needs to be much of a worry…
Although one of the most powerful earthquakes in Australian history occurred only as recently as the 1940s in Western Australia (a Richter 7.2), but the strongest event to hit this side of the continent was around 20,000 years ago.

Have a look at the AG’s emergency management database, NSW\ACT aren’t really a hotbed of seismic activity.

DeadlySchnauzer11:05 am 21 Mar 11


In summary, we shouldn’t be concerned.

This CT article needs more scare-mongering. Last time I checked Canberra was not situated on (or near) a major fault line.

Holy crap…………………and here I was thinking it was Stanhope’s office, Stanhope’s home and Stanhope’s garage that were the only three!

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