British Columbia lies along the edge of three major, active tectonic plates, known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”. In the past year alone, over 1,700 minor earthquakes have been recorded in the Pacific Northwest. Seismologists conclude that devastating earthquakes typically occur within the Pacific Northwest every 300-400 years; the last devastating earthquake occurred in January 1700. Thus, this region may experience a major seismic event at any time.
The Province has done much to prepare for a future damaging earthquake, and recognizes that various Ministries within the government should have developed mature programs for planning improvements to new and existing provincial infrastructure to increase seismic resilience. However, a cross-ministry framework for asset management planning and government decision-making on priorities and capital planning is desired.
BC has been implementing seismic upgrades to its building and transportation assets for more than a decade. Areas of improvement include coordinating efforts across Ministries, and undertaking upgrades that protect assets beyond “life preservation”, ensuring that structures survive a strong earthquake long enough for inhabitants to safely evacuate.
Associated Engineering served as the lead consultant for developing an earthquake asset management framework for the Province. Project Manager, Pat Cruickshank, tells us, “This project involved consultations with a Working Committee consisting of five key, provincial government Ministries. The goal was to determine how each Ministry manages its seismic asset management program, identify areas for potential improvement, and make recommendations that may be achievable through a coordinated, managed approach.”
Our team consulted with members of the Working Committee and organized four workshops. The team reviewed how each Ministry conducted its asset management, including structural and non-structural assessments, and worked collaboratively to help identify common themes and opportunities. Coordinating with members of the multi-discipline consultant team, we held consultations and workshops with the Province’s Working Committee.
The final report, the Earthquake Integrated Asset Management Plan, clearly defines the government’s four goals for seismic asset risk management. The Province wishes to construct or retrofit buildings and bridges to survive a large earthquake with reduced damage, ideally allowing for continued use after an earthquake, with or without major repairs. Defining a primary transportation network as “critical” for immediate response and for long-term economic activity within and between cities is an important factor for community and economic resilience.
A unique aspect of this project was providing a framework for integrating seismic resilience planning for the full range of infrastructure assets. Some seismic resilience planning for schools, hospitals, universities, and other government buildings have been undertaken, but not in a holistic and integrated manner. Having Ministries coordinate their planning, including demonstrating this process to the Treasury Board, were unique additions to seismic resilience planning.
Elements of this integrated asset management approach have already been embraced; for example, in the Ministry’s final planning of a critical transportation network, and in the seismic retrofit guidelines and standards that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure have recently adopted. These aspects arose in part from Associated Engineering’s involvement with the Ministry in co-authoring a custom, BC-focused supplement to the Canadian Bridge code.
Our key personnel on this project were Pat Cruickshank, Don Kennedy, Jason Dowling, David Harvey, Lianna Mah, and Michael Tolboom.