Ken Elwood, Associate Director and former Director of Te Hiranga Rū QuakeCoRE, is moving on to a new role as MBIE / EQC Chief Engineer (Building Resilience). We’d like to acknowledge the huge contribution Ken has made to QuakeCoRE since its inception.
Ken was in Christchurch on the day of the February 22 earthquake in 2011, and it was an experience that changed the trajectory of his life. As a structural engineer working at the University of British Colombia at the time, he observed first-hand the terrible effects of poorly designed buildings, and their risk to human lives and livelihoods. Three years later he moved from Vancouver to join the University of Auckland, together with his wife Mara and two boys Mattheas and Ben.
Ken dedicated himself to earthquake risk reduction and improving the structural performance of buildings. He initiated and drove the successful Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) proposal for “QuakeCoRE” in 2015, in collaboration with Brendon Bradley and others. With five years of funding secured, Ken got into his work as the Director of QuakeCoRE, creating an inclusive research culture that respected and valued interdisciplinary thinking. Thanks to Ken, many of the best earthquake risk and resilience researchers in Aotearoa New Zealand coalesced in QuakeCoRE, coming together each year at the Annual Meeting to spark ideas for exciting and innovative research. The connections he helped forge with practitioners and policy-makers ensured QuakeCoRE was producing science that was highly relevant and much-needed as Aotearoa New Zealand worked to understand its seismic risk, and the measures needed to build resilience and readiness for the next earthquake disaster. His expertise as a structural engineer, and his passion for improving building design and construction also led to his significant contribution to changes in the building code over the past five years.
His commitment to supporting early career researchers inspired the concept of Student Chapters or QERCs, which formed in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. His mentorship of graduate students has been immense throughout QuakeCoRE, and he is widely regarded as ‘a truly amazing human’ by many.
Ken stepped aside to enable a change of leadership when Brendon Bradley became the Director in 2019, a decision driven by his strong belief in supporting colleagues coming along behind him. As Research Director, Ken excelled at encouraging and enabling researchers from different disciplines to work together on complex problems. He took on responsibility for Flagship 3 in 2018, and led the Wellington Collaboratory Project, designed to bridge the gap between QuakeCoRE, It’s our Fault and local government to address the significant seismic risk in the capital.
Ken’s contribution to the TEC Rebid process was significant and led to the successful continuation of QuakeCoRE into phase 2. He took up the challenge of moving into a very different portfolio – Diversity, Equity, Wellbeing and Inclusion, a difficult role for a self-confessed ‘privileged, white guy’. His commitment to supporting those from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups meant he was highly respected for his efforts. Ken’s on-going commitment to the leadership of QuakeCoRE has been tremendous, with his depth of knowledge and experience helping to guide the programme throughout.
Although Ken’s new role will allow him to remain engaged with the QuakeCoRE community, we will greatly miss his guidance and contributions to the CoRE. We wish him all the very best in his new role, and look forward to seeing him in Napier at our Annual Meeting in 2022.
The Te Hiranga Rū QuakeCoRE Directors