Specialist earth builder and guest researcher in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, Peter Hickson, combined one the world's most ancient building techniques, "cob" construction, with modern engineering methods to develop a model house as part of an effort to create low cost earthquake resistant housing for millions of people around the world.
On Wednesday 17 December the half-size model made of earth and bamboo was put to the test on the state-of-the-art UTS shake table, the only earthquake simulator of its kind in Australia.
The four tests were based on the El Salvador 2001 earthquake which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. The first test was set at 100 per cent intensity, the second at 125 per cent intensity. The third and fourth tests represented the aftershocks that occur after the main earthquake hits and these were set at 100 per cent intensity. Impressively, the model suffered minor cracks but remained standing.
Hickson collaborated with the Head of School, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor Bijan Samali and final-year engineering students Luke Punzet and Jean-Michel Albert-Thernet in building and testing the model.
"If this were an actual building then it could have been safely reoccupied without any repair," Professor Samali said. "It is an outstanding success because not collapsing and killing or injuring people is enough to claim success."
Hickson has been given the go ahead to safely use his construction system anywhere seismic activity is common and a hazard to life.