Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Civil Engineering
Studying towards a PhD in Civil Engineering
Craig’s PhD sees him developing and testing innovative new technology for buildings which aims to reduce damage, and increase safety, during earthquakes. The new detail, a connection termed “slotted beam”, reduces damage to the frame and floor of a building during an earthquake with no significant increase in build cost.
During the course of his research, Craig designed and built a two-thirds scale, two-storey test specimen to represent the lower two storeys of a larger seven storey building designed for Wellington. The specimen was then subjected to demanding earthquake motions to assess the performance of the new detail. The overall performance was very encouraging.
Next, two portions of the larger specimen were extracted during demolition. These were tested again to assess the performance of the new detail after it has already been through a large earthquake. The residual capacity in a building is a critical consideration for engineers when determining the safety of a structure for future occupancy.
‘If a connection does not have enough residual capacity to withstand future earthquakes, then often the structure is demolished as it can prove uneconomical to strengthen,’ explains Craig. ‘This is what we have seen all too often in Christchurch, and it’s why an economical method for retrofitting the slotted beam was developed and tested.’
Now writing his thesis, Craig is also working with Professor Athol Carr to develop detailed numerical models to simulate the behaviour of the connection virtually. The models allow Craig to construct 3D models of entire buildings, and then apply earthquakes to them to assess their behaviour, especially in comparison with traditional building methods. In the future, these models can be used by engineers to assess the likely performance of new buildings in earthquakes.
Yet when he was finishing high school, Craig wasn’t thinking about an Engineering degree – or any degree. ‘I got into engineering by accident,’ he explains. ‘I was never really all that interested in school work... but I had always been interested in cars, motorcycles and anything vaguely mechanical.
‘I found myself making a trip to Christchurch to take a tour around Air New Zealand with the intent of applying for a course in aeronautical maintenance. However, while in Christchurch I met up with my brother’s friend who was studying Mechanical Engineering at UC and he gave me a quick tour around. So, on the back of that quick introduction, and still not really understanding what engineers actually did, I applied.
‘During my undergraduate degree I discovered what a professional engineer really does. I discovered a tenacity and intelligence I never knew I had, and developed a passion for structural and seismic engineering.’
Craig credits UC’s teaching for this discovery. ‘This could never have occurred without the friendships forged by such an experience and the support of the talented academic staff in the Civil department.’
Craig is enthusiastic about the wider benefits of UC’s Engineering degree. ‘During the course of your studies you gain not only a vast array of technical skills, but a new critical mindset.’
He is looking forward to working as a Structural Engineer at BGT Structures after completing his thesis. He is especially excited about the prospect of applying his skills to the design of new, smarter structures for the rebuild of Christchurch.
Craig’s advice to prospective Engineering students is to talk to as many people as possible and make an informed decision. ‘I was lucky to have stumbled into this profession which I love by accident, but I understand it could’ve gone the other way,’ he says. ‘People are usually more than happy to talk about their profession, share their experiences and offer advice.’