News from the CRC

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York Town Hall. Photo: Geoscience Australia
York Town Hall. Photo: Geoscience Australia

Survey to protect historic WA town from earthquake

Research is underway to protect a small town in one of Australia’s most active earthquake regions.

As part of the cost-effective mitigation strategy for building-related earthquake risk project, the research team from Geoscience Australia and the University of Adelaide are examining practical approaches for retrofitting historical buildings in York, Western Australia.

Teams will collect information with hand-held computers, digital cameras and a vehicle-mounted camera known as a Rapid Inventory Collection System to investigate how to retrofit old buildings in Western Australia’s oldest inland town. Following this, retrofitting options will be virtually applied to the buildings to understand what modifications are most effective in reducing the damage from a large earthquake.

York’s Town Hall is among the list of buildings which are at risk if an earthquake did occur. The heritage-listed building was built in 1911.

“The hazard has been ignored until quite recently, and we can’t forecast an earthquake,” researcher Mark Edwards said.

Local business owners will also be surveyed about the possible economic disruptions if an earthquake did occur, while scenarios will be developed to assist the Shire of York and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA with their emergency planning. The research will not only benefit the Shire of York but also other small Australian towns with similar structures.

Earthquake as a hazard in Australian building design was not fully recognised until the Newcastle earthquake in 1989, which means that buildings built prior to the development of earthquake code could be particularly vulnerable.

York is the first town in Australia to be selected for the earthquake mitigation study. The town has 31 buildings on the state heritage register.

The project will continue until April with a report on the survey findings expected to be delivered to The Shire of York later this year.

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