Formance SIPs and Earthquakes

Having recently conducted panel testing to measure their earthquake resistance we were anxious to see how well Formance stood up to the  powerful 7.8 earthquake that struck on 14th November 2016 . Back in September 2010 on the morning of that first severe earthquake in Christchurch we googled "earthquake proof housing" and came across panels. Two years later what started off as an anxious search for a construction solution to the horror of what we had just experienced had become an invested interest in the adoption of this technology to New Zealand conditions. Formance was born.

So how well do Formance panels withstand the forces of nature in an earthquake?  The answer is remarkably well.

Formance SIPs have two key attributes that really stand out; they have huge strength and they have great ductility. So not only do they withstand the applied force of an earthquake really really well but they have a unique ability to take the shock out of the movement by allowing some non-permanent flex in the stucture. Engineers call this ductility. Small but enough to significantly reduce the impact of the multi-directional earthquake cycle. More rigid and brittle materials like concrete tend to fail abruptly without warning and once gone they require extensive remediation or replacement. The engineers measure resistance to earthquake movement in Bracing Units and have other more technical terms for it but for the rest of us it simply means they can withstand severe earthquakes and keep us safe inside. 

How do we know this all works in real life? There is emperical evidence in earthquake events going back many years in the USA and Japan showing just how well SIPs made from Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) cope with an earthquake. The particular composition and fixing methods is what we use in Formance SIPs and is one that withstood history's worst events. Now in this recent event we have proved it for ourselves. Immediately after the 7.5 Kaikoura quake a client living within 30 minutes of the epicentre reported in to say his Formance home had passed with flying colours.


BRANZ- EQC Research and Testing on SIPs

A system claiming to deliver on faster, more sustainable, more comfortable and safer buildings deserves a closer look according to researchers at BRANZ.

BRANZ materials scientist Anna Walsh has set up a project to look at Structural Insulated Panels in the NZ environment. "SIPs are sandwich panels made of two face layers and an insulating inner core," explains Anna. "The panels can be prefabricated and assembled quickly on-site and could be used to increase construction speed and reduce the overall building cost."

SIPs have been widely used overseas for several decades but are relatively new to the market here. "We want to know more about their performance in New Zealand," says Anna. "We will look at how the panels stand up to our climate and how they perform in the event of an earthquake or fire."

The project is using a combination of laboratory testing and information gathering on what is already known internationally about SIPs so that findings can be applied to the way construction is carried out in New Zealand.

EQC-funded earthquake testing is already underway and BRANZ senior structural engineer Dr David Carradine is enthusiastic about the results to date. "So far we’ve found that the ductility of the system - that’s the ability to deform without actually failing - is very good," says David. "The way the panels have responded to simulated earthquake loading is exactly what we want to see from an engineering point of view for low rise buildings."

Dr. David Carradine explains the earthquake testing being carried out on SIPs in the video below. 

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