Performance of residential houses in the Darfield (Canterbury) earthquake

  • Andrew H. Buchanan University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Michael P. Newcombe University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand


This paper focuses on the observed seismic performance of residential houses (mainly single-storey and two-storey houses) in the Darfield earthquake on 4 September 2010 and identifies potential research areas for remediation and resilience.

Overall the residential building stock, consisting predominately of light timber frame construction, performed very well, with very little structural damage due to ground shaking. The most significant structural damage to houses was from differential settlement of foundations, induced by soil liquefaction and/or lateral spreading. Many older buildings (more than 20 years old) suffered damage due to falling chimneys. Close to the fault rupture, in areas such as West Melton and Rolleston, there was significant damage to building contents due to strong shaking, and a few broken windows. Away from the fault zone, very few windows were broken in any buildings, indicating limited inter-storey drift.

Research needs were identified associated mainly with the design and repair of houses on liquefaction-prone soils.


NZS3604:1999. “Timber Framed Buildings”. New Zealand Standards, Wellington, New Zealand 1999.

NZS1170.5 (2004). "Structural Design Actions - Part 5 - Earthquake Actions". Wellington, New Zealand Standards.

Tonkin and Taylor Ltd (2010). "Darfield Earthquake 4 September 2010 Geotechnical Land Damage Assessment & Reinstatement Report Christchurch", Tonkin and Taylor Ltd for the Earthquake Commission.

McManus, K. J., Cubrinovski, M., Pender, M. J., McVerry, G., Sinclair, T., Matuschka, T., Simpson, K., Clayton, P., Jury, R., (2010) "Geotechnical earthquake engineering practice, Module 1 - guideline for the identification, assessment and mitigation of liquefaction hazards". New Zealand Geotechnical Society, July 2010.

How to Cite
Buchanan, A. H., & Newcombe, M. P. (2010). Performance of residential houses in the Darfield (Canterbury) earthquake. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 43(4), 387-392.

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