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Dedication to Structural Resilience Earns Prominent Award

Canterbury academic wins coveted industry award


Queenstown, 15 November 2020 – Greg MacRae, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury, is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Steel Construction NZ (SCNZ) Chair’s Award. The annual award recognises individuals who have made a significant and lasting contribution to New Zealand’s structural steel industry.


SCNZ Chair and John Jones Steel managing director Frank Van Schaijik presented Greg with the award at a gala dinner in Queenstown on 13 November.


“Greg has had a deep impact, not only on our structural steel industry, but also on the wider construction industry. He has demonstrated a clear focus on finding the best structural solutions for both the community and the industry using safe, strong and resilient structures,” says Mr Van Schaijik.


When the devastating Canterbury earthquakes struck, Greg was head of the Structures Group at Canterbury university exploring structural steel frames that could withstand seismic events. Unsurprisingly, Greg’s expertise were soon keenly sought after. With a focus on structural resilience and low-damage design, he consulted on many seismic-frame solutions.


Mr Van Schaijik says Greg’s willingness to engage with industry to find the most cost-effective and buildable solutions led to the successful completion of many projects as part of the Canterbury rebuild.


“The 2011 earthquake made people rethink how buildings are constructed and how they perform during and after a ’quake. While the primary concern for buildings is to ensure people can safely walk away after an earthquake, operational continuity where buildings can be quickly reoccupied following a seismic event is also critical.”


The Christchurch rebuild showed a decisive shift from the traditional reinforced concrete frames towards the use of low-damage, seismic-resisting materials. As a result, demand for structural steel rose steeply and the material’s share of the multilevel construction market grew from virtually nil to over 80 percent in Christchurch. The trend has seen architects favour exposed steel frames as part of the overall aesthetic, proudly displaying the critical seismic-resisting elements.


“Today, structural steel's uptake in Christchurch has become a blueprint for high-quality, seismically resilient construction throughout New Zealand,” says Mr Van Schaijik.


Greg’s work is internationally recognised. Results from his research have been incorporated in design guidelines around the world and have influenced the construction of millions of dollars’ worth of buildings in New Zealand, Japan and the USA.


Greg was the director of the University’s postgraduate earthquake engineering research programme and he was a member of its Quake Centre board. He has written for the Royal Commission on the Canterbury earthquakes and from 2011-2019 he was the New Zealand representative to the International Association of Earthquake Engineering. He currently heads the New Zealand-China ROBUST test programme, which is associated with the International Association of Earthquake Engineering.




About Steel Construction New Zealand

Steel Construction New Zealand Inc. (SCNZ) aims to advance the interests of New Zealand’s diverse steel construction industry by promoting the benefits of steel solutions in building and infrastructure projects. Members include manufacturers of structural steel and steel products, distributors, fabricators, designers, detailers, galvanisers, and paint and building supply companies. SCNZ provides its members with technical advice on the latest in steel design trends and standards, networking opportunities and a representative voice with key industry and government decision-makers. For more information please visit


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Media contact:


Lisa van Beurden


M. +64 274 377 579

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