Inter-disciplinary Programme 4: Harnessing Disruptive Technologies for Earthquake Resilience

This programme will identify how transformational (i.e. order of magnitude) advancements in NZs infrastructure resilience can be achieved through strategic adoption of disruptive technologies, via government and market-led initiatives. A central hypothesis is that rapid adoption of several disruptive technologies (e.g. distributed solar power, autonomous transport, and a sensing society) will result in a significantly greater resilience gain than the conventional wisdom of incremental investment to improve existing asset classes (e.g. centralized transmission networks, physical logistics, significantly increased public awareness and preparedness). 

Research Summary

The following key questions needs to be understood:

  • How will autonomous transportation modes function in a beyond business-as-usual environment? (e.g. physically damaged roads, disrupted electrical systems)
  • How does the trade-off in electrification of transportation, reducing vulnerable reliance on liquid fuels, but increasing resilience requirements for electricity, play out over time?
  • How do individual utility networks develop resilience to externality risks and avoid contagion?
  • How can real-time sensing enable early detection of network degradation pre-event, and situational awareness in the immediate post-event environment for rapid restoration?
  • How should existing asset management investment occur to provide resilience during the transition to a renewable and distributed energy system?
  • What is the failure hierarchy of a renewable distributed energy system in seismic events?


Research Outline

Research answers to the above will guide seismic-informed transformational analysis planned to be addressed as follows during the 7.5 years of IP4:

  • We will use novel approaches to capture behaviour when disruptive technologies change the business-as-usual structure of the economy beyond conventional socio-economic models that assume the future structure of an economy will follow the same pattern as it has historically.
  • We will consider adoption pathways for several disruptive technologies (noted above), including temporal rates and depth of penetration, and the associated equity and well-being consequences of adoption.
  • These adoption pathways will provide insight into the resilience gains (and potential pitfalls) of such technology adoption, and an evidence-base for just decision-making beyond the business-as-usual utility of these technologies.

This Inter-disciplinary Programme focuses on three exemplary strands of disruptive infrastructure technologies under a range of plausible forward-looking scenarios to 2030, 2040 and 2050. We will investigate how these technologies may be harnessed to maximise not only economic objectives, but also to create seismic resilience co-benefits while minimising societal and environmental costs associated with increased inter-connectedness, ‘lock-in’ path dependencies and inequitable distributional impacts. Through these case studies we will develop novel integrated dynamic models, which sit at the convergence of data and system science, widening the investment evaluation lens to capture economic and wellbeing indicators through time for multiple stakeholders.

Our People

Project Co-Leaders: Nirmal Nair and Garry McDonald

Project Contact Person: Nirmal Nair (

Project Investigators:  Nicola McDonald, Emily Harvey, Brendon Bradley, Cecile L'Hermitte, Raj Prasanna, Larry Bellamy, Liam Wotherspoon, Tom Wilson, Hamish Avery, Juan Monge, Conrad Zorn, Robert Cardwell, Nadia Trent, Charlotte Brown, Kevin I-Kai Wang, Ho Seok Ahn, Lucas Hogan, Max Stephens, Yang Zhao, Minh Kieu, Pascal Cheon, Kristin Stock

Industry Affiliates:  Andrew Renton, Stuart Woods, Waqar Qureshi