NZ Geomechanics News


Variety is the spice of life

In the changes that have been forced upon us all by COVID-19 we see inspiration in innovation all around us – on line shopping, click-and-collect, businesses refocussing – as well as the adverse effects such as loss of jobs, business failures and people behaving like idiots.

Life for the geotechnical community will undergo changes as a result of the COVID chaos. We cannot yet predict the future with any clarity but we, your Editors, fully expect the engineering profession to show leadership and good management to rival that shown by our Prime Minister and her key off-siders during the recent crisis.

In this issue we have a taste of spice for your enjoyment. We have new ideas, thought-provoking articles and some great examples of the work we do (have done) in the form of case studies. But more importantly, we have focussed our lead article on an issue that is affecting us all now and will become even more important to the community in future – coastal erosion and other effects of rising sea levels are here to stay, perhaps for a very long time, and will require innovative engineering and community responses.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times discussed the issues, currently adopted solutions and problems associated with them. In summary:

Seawalls in various forms are the current ‘go to’ option but come with a hidden cost — ultimately they force the sand before them to wash away. For every new seawall protecting a community or a road or rail line, a beach is sacrificed. Adding sand to disappearing beaches is a race against nature but the race only lasts as long as the money and the available sand. The ocean always wins.
The other option is “managed retreat”: move back, relocate, essentially cede the land to nature. But we have to be careful not to create additional environmental impacts in the process – think of the effects of exposing old waste dumps, for example.

Our feature article outlines the ways in which sea-level rise and associated changes in coastal erosion and flooding hazards present a significant challenge for New Zealand that requires new, innovative and adaptive management and infrastructure approaches. This will manifest as major changes in policies, new risk management strategies and innovative engineering. It is a critical issue for the future, so please read the article carefully.

But that’s not all folks. As you all know, we are a wasteful society long given to dumping or burying stuff we don’t need, don’t want or don’t know what to do about. Old tyres are a classic example – at present only 30% of the 5 million unwanted tyres produced annually in NZ are recycled. The rest are sent to landfill, stockpiled or illegally dumped. Read about the research being undertaken at the University of Canterbury to reuse these tyres as a construction material in civil engineering applications and in particular to design earthquake resistant structures by developing innovative dissipative foundation systems.

Enjoy this variety of spices.

Don and Gabriele

NZ Geomechanics News
Don Macfarlane, Gabriele Chiaro
NZ Geomechanics News>Issue 99 – June 2020
Society News

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