Each year, seismologists with the Geological Survey of Canada record and locate more than 1000 earthquakes in western Canada. The Pacific Coast is the most earthquake-prone region of Canada and in the offshore region to the west of Vancouver Island, more than 100 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater (large enough to cause damage had they been closer to land) have occurred during the past 70 years.

The reason for the concentration of earthquakes along the west coast is the active faults, or breaks in the earth’s crust that occur in this area. The surface of the earth is always changing, as the earth’s crust is made up of "plates" (like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle) that are constantly moving relative to one another at speed’s of about 2-10 cm/year (about the speed at which our fingernails grow).

The earth’s plates can slide past each other, collide or move apart, and the West coast of Canada is one of the few areas of the world where all three types of plate movement are found.

It is no coincidence therefore that Vancouver is also the location of the 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in August. This forum takes place every four years and provides a focal point for interaction among researchers and practioners in the field, and one man who will definitely be attending is Imperial College’s Dr Ahmed Elghazouli due an International Travel Grant from The Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Elghazouli is a leading structural engineer whose research is concentrated on earthquake engineering. One of an internationally-recognised group of UK academics researching earthquake engineering, Dr Elghazouli’s work focuses on the seismic behaviour and design of building structures. His research covers experimental, analytical and design aspects of structural earthquake engineering. He has been involved in several collaborative European and international projects on related topics. In particular, his work on the seismic performance of composite steel/concrete structures has made significant contributions to design practice and has been directly implemented in the new European seismic code ‘Eurocode 8’. He has also undertaken considerable field work and reported on a number of large earthquakes worldwide, an experience which represents an essential component to the understanding of the seismic behaviour of structures.

In addition to his research projects, Dr Elghazouli is involved in many other professional and educational activities. Importantly, he is the current chairman of the Research and Education Sub-Committee of SECED (the UK Society for Earthquake Engineering and Civil Engineering Dynamics). SECED is the British branch of both the International and European Associations for Earthquake Engineering. Its mission is to promote co-operation in the advancement of knowledge and to foster constructive interaction between industry and academia in the fields of earthquake engineering and civil engineering dynamics. At Imperial College, Dr Elghazouli is also Director of the specialist MSc programme in earthquake engineering, which attracts highly qualified graduates from many parts of the world.

Dr Elghazouli says,

“Although the UK is one of the most seismically stable areas on earth, British interest in earthquake engineering dates back at least to the time of Robert Mallet (1810 – 1881) and John Milne (1850 – 1913). There is a considerable current interest and activity in the field of earthquake engineering amongst researchers and practising engineers in the UK. This is partly a result of the extensive work carried out by British consultants in active seismic regions overseas as well as the need to provide seismic safety cases for nuclear and other hazardous installations in the UK. Other reasons include the current extensive developments in earthquake engineering design standards coupled with the stimulating intellectual challenge of earthquake engineering research which involves several inter-related disciplines”.

Ian Bowbrick, Manager, Post Graduate and Professional Development at the Royal Academy of Engineering says,

“The Royal Academy of Engineering exists to support excellence in engineering and to offer opportunities to our engineers. The International Travel Grant scheme is one way of doing this. Ahmed’s superb work in a unique and essential area of research demonstrates not just great innovation but also how engineering impacts on peoples’ everyday lives around the world.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. The Royal Academy of Engineering is committed to the support of engineering education at all levels and runs a wide variety of education schemes and awards. The International Travel Grant Scheme supports top engineering research in the United Kingdom by enabling researchers to make study visits overseas to remain at the forefront of new developments at home and overseas.

For more information please contact

Claire McLoughlin at the Royal Academy of Engineering