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Improving earthquake safety with Mitacs-Accelerate

Many regions of Canada are prone to earthquakes. Strict building codes introduced in British Columbia in the 1980s mean newer buildings have been designed to withstand a seismic event. However, many older structures built before these rules were created may be at risk of damage or collapse. These buildings need to be surveyed and then retrofitted with extra support to improve their stability, a process that requires unique engineering expertise.

It is this knowledge that Kamloops-based firm West Edge Engineering Ltd. was looking for when they approached UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering.

There, they were teamed up with Engineering Masters student Konrad Duerr, through a Mitacs-Accelerate internship.

Konrad worked on implementing seismic hazard assessment computer software at West Edge, allowing the company to carry out earthquake risk assessments on buildings – something they had not been able to do before the internship.

“I was able to transfer the latest knowledge coming out of academia on earthquake engineering to West Edge, giving the company expertise on how to retrofit buildings to minimize damage during a quake.   The process involves doing a detailed survey of the building to identify any structural weakness.  Then extra supports or steel braces are strategically added to help minimize the risk of collapse during a tremor,” Konrad explained.

“The computer software is used to determine how to maximize the structural integrity of a building while at the same time minimizing the cost of the retrofit.”

Principal and Senior Structural Engineer at West Edge Engineering, Yu Kang, said Konrad brought invaluable knowledge to the company which has allowed it to expand on the range of engineering services it offers.

“Mitacs-Accelerate gave us the perfect opportunity to access the latest in engineering research and techniques from a university graduate.  The program has also helped us establish a strong relationship with UBC Okanagan through which we can share knowledge and the co-funding was a big help financially.”

The internship also led to employment for Konrad.  “It not only helped me complete my Masters but also helped me get a job – I’ve been employed full-time by West Edge and I’m now working on their team.”

 

Mitacs gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence's Industrial Research and Development Internship program, Western Economic Diversification, and the Government of British Columbia for their support of Mitacs-Accelerate in the province.