Analysing SEQ's need for disaster-resilient buildings

    Friday, June 19, 2015

    While structural engineers draw from fundamental principles when designing commercial facilities, they also adjust designs according to prospective locations.  

    Constructing a warehouse in Longreach, Queensland carries different implications than building a 20-storey office complex in downtown Brisbane. Of course, each structure has a different form and function - one supports traditional white collar operations while the other caters to logistics. 

    Yet, it's also necessary to address environmental disparities between Longreach and Brisbane. The latter is a coastal metropolis while the former is an outback township. In regard to building in Brisbane, what would structural engineers and developers need to be aware of?

    Natural disasters have cost Queensland more than $5.4 billion in recent years.

    Developing a resilient South East Queensland

    Why Brisbane? According to the South East Queensland (SEQ) Council of Mayors, SEQ is a rapidly growing region, and will house approximately one in six Australians within the next two decades. Given this estimate, demand for both commercial and residential property is increasing. 

    The Council released a document proposing a joint effort between itself and the Federal government to support infrastructure initiatives throughout the region. The first priority it highlighted was bolstering SEQ's ability to recover from and resist natural disasters. 

    According to the Council, natural disasters have cost Queensland more than $5.4 billion in recent years. These expenses are associated with the reinstatement of assets that have been impacted by such events. 

    What sort of natural disasters is SEQ up against? 

    Queensland Disaster Management conducted a state-wide risk assessment of natural disasters in 2012, collecting data from 1900 to 2011. 

    The analysis concluded that tropical cyclones and flooding were the two greatest natural threats to Queensland. Combined, these two hazards accounted for approximately 72 per cent of structural damage. Flooding has caused 50 per cent of Queensland's total building losses.

    These are all factors structural engineers working in SEQ are likely cognisant of these issues. The question is, how are they applying this knowledge when spearheading commercial construction projects? 

    How can structural engineers design cyclone-resistant buildings? Tropical cyclones pose a risk to SEQ.

    Preparing for cyclones and floods 

    Engineers take a few basic measures to ensure buildings are resistant to cyclones, many of which were detailed by the Development Workshop Foundation.

    For one thing, use a regular shape for the basic structure layout to reduce pressure concentration.

    Then, strengthen junctions to reinforce the building's bracin. 

    Ultimately, choosing a location that does not receive the full wind force is a good necessary measure to take.

    As for floods, if a building is going to be located in a vulnerable location, it's recommended that the lowest level be raised above anticipated flood levels. Some situations may warrant the construction of floodwalls, but these aren't always necessary.

    SEQ offers a lot of economic promise, but it can be detrimentally affected by disaster-related disruptions. Developing commercial real estate that are built for floods, cyclones and other events ensures that fiscal activity can progress uninterrupted.