Wellington researchers recreate earthquakes to test housing standards

In Wellington, researchers are using a machine to recreate the shaking of an earthquake - in order to test the resilience of four different house foundations.

During an earthquake, house foundations rattle and nails are lifted out of wooden frames.

Independent construction research company BRANZ ran the tests to see what kinds of foundations will hold up during a quake. 

With many New Zealand homes built for the view, especially in earthquake-prone areas like Wellington, researchers hope to identify weak spots in house foundations.

In the Canterbury quakes the same level of shaking caused more damage to homes on hills than it did to those on the flat.

"The key thing after a terrible event like we had in Christchurch is to keep people in their houses," says BRANZ project leader Roger Shelton.

Shelton says if buildings are more resilient, earthquake recovery can be faster and cheaper, and finding a cost-effective way to strengthen foundations means making existing homes safer.

The outcomes of this research will be released in June - those results will then be used to inform building standards in the future. Ultimately, this could mean a change to minimum mandatory construction codes.

But changing mandatory building standards is a lengthy process.

In the meantime, the Earthquake Commission will be talking to the construction industry about voluntarily lifting their standards.