Des K Bull

Citation on the award of NZSEE Fellow, March 2014

Des Bull is awarded a Fellowship of NZSEE for his services to earthquake engineering in New Zealand.

Des has been actively involved as a structural engineering practitioner, researcher and educator, and in the specialist field of urban search and rescue and earthquake response.

He completed a Master of Engineering degree at University of Canterbury in 1984, then gained practical experience over the next 5 years in consultancy practices before joining Cement & Concrete Association as a structural engineer. In 1993 Des took up a Cement & Concrete Association Fellowship at the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Canterbury. His teaching and research role developed so that in 2000 Des was appointed the Holcim Adjunct Professor in Concrete Design at Canterbury; a position he holds to this day.  In 1996 he became Technical Director at Holmes Consulting Group, Christchurch, thereby maintaining his involvement as a practitioner.

This combination of academic research and structural practice has allowed Des to develop particular insights into concrete structures and their behaviour under earthquake actions. This capability is recognised in New Zealand and internationally, with Des being involved in a wide range of technical committees such as:

  • the Concrete Structures Standard NZS 3101: 1995 committee.
  • the Earthquake Actions Standard NZS 1170 Part 5: 2004 committee.
  • MBIE’s Engineering Advisory Group: Commercial Buildings
  • the Department of Building & Housing’s Precast Floor Overview Group.

Des has practiced at the forefront of New Zealand’s structural engineering profession. He has been willing to break new ground in researching challenging areas such as floor diaphragms in order to meet practical needs. His extensive contribution has been recognised by the IPENZ Professional Commitment Award in 2004 and with Honorary Membership of the NZ Concrete Society in 2012.

His role as an educator of both undergraduate and post-graduate engineers over the last two decades has been hugely infuential on the development of structural engineering practice in New Zealand, with a focus on achieving resilient concrete structures. Des has provided a point of reference for many engineers during their careers.

In addition to this, he has played a significant role in the development of New Zealand’s Urban Search and Rescue operational capability. This was initiated as a direct outcome of the NZSEE “Learning from Earthquakes” mission to Los Angeles following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, of which Des was a member. His passion as an educator and knowledge of rescue methods has seen him be the specialist engineering trainer for USAR technicians and engineers in NZ and overseas over the past 20 years. Des’s technical leadership was fundamental to a very strong and effective USAR response to the 22 February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.