New Chief Engineer role connects policy, research, and engineering practice

Posted: 10 May 2022

Chief engineer Ken Elwood
Connecting policy, research, and engineering practice is a "massive step" in improving building resilience in New Zealand, says Dr Ken Elwood, newly appointed Chief Engineer for the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) and the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

Dr Elwood, also an earthquake engineering professor at the University of Auckland, hopes the new position will strengthen the relationships between industry, relevant academic and research organisations, as well as MBIE and EQC, whilst also bringing a strategic lens to resilience strategies, direction and sector wide initiatives.

MBIE has co-funded the position alongside EQC with the aim of creating a stronger connection between regulatory bodies and engineers. Conversations are already underway with the Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand, New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, and the New Zealand Geotechnical Society to explore improvements to how engineers assess the expected seismic performance of existing buildings and design suitable retrofits.

"The purpose of this dual-agency position is to act as a key champion of resilience, but also bring in research that’s practical and beneficial to back policy that works," says Dr Elwood.

MBIE and EQC have a shared objective to increase the resilience of New Zealand’s buildings and reduce the impact of natural hazards on people and property.

"Collaboration between EQC and MBIE on previous building resilience projects has been successful, including the ongoing revision of the National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM)."

Dr Elwood's top priorities will include working with earthquake engineering experts to assess possible changes to the Building System, starting with exploring ways to incorporate information from the NSHM into the regulatory settings for new building work as part of the 2023 Building Code update cycle.

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More information

Managing earthquake-prone buildings

National Seismic Hazard Model –

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