G Charles Clifton

Citation on the award of Life Membership, April 2021

Dr G Charles Clifton is conferred with Life Member of the NZSEE for his extensive contribution to earthquake engineering research in structural steel systems and to earthquake engineering practice in New Zealand.

Charles was responsible for starting the Structural Division of the New Zealand Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA) in 1983 and promoting the efficient and effective use of structural steel in buildings, notably multi-story buildings, at a time when reinforced concrete construction was the predominant material for such buildings. He conducted and coordinated research into steel and steel-concrete composite buildings to ensure their good performance in severe earthquake and severe fire events, and produced design guidelines for use by the consulting engineering profession. He was a major contributor to the subsequent development of new and revised Standards and codes of engineering practice for structural steel design and fire engineering. He led the dissemination of this material to the consulting engineering profession, leading to the widespread adoption of structural steel both prior to the Canterbury Earthquakes, and subsequently, as the material of preference for multi-level commercial type building construction in New Zealand, with a market share now well over 60% nationwide. He subsequently led the establishment of the Steel Structures Analysis Service, now Steel Construction New Zealand, to provide structural steel design solutions and technical support to the engineering profession and construction industry. The material presented in the HERA guidelines and standards has also positively contributed to improving seismic code provisions internationally.

Following close research association with the University of Auckland whilst at HERA, Charles undertook and completed his PhD in 2005, developing and demonstrating the seismic performance of two new forms of semi rigid beam column connections for moment resisting steel frames, one being  the “Sliding Hinge Joint” which has been adopted by the engineering profession and used in a number of multi-storey buildings in New Zealand. Three Wellington buildings incorporating two of the seismic resisting systems developed by Charles were awarded the IStructE 2009 Structural Prize for Engineering Excellence in the Healthcare and Education Sectors. Several ACENZ and SCNZ awards have also been won by buildings incorporating his systems.

Charles joined the University of Auckland Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2008, specialising in structural steel and composite engineering. His research outputs are recognised as world class, gaining him an invitation as Visiting Professor to the University of Salerno Italy in 2019 and a position on the Expert Advisory Group to the NIST National Fire Research Laboratory, Washington USA.

As an internationally recognised expert in the performance of steel structures, Charles willingly provides peer review services to the engineering profession on design aspects of some of the recently developed steel building solutions being adopted in NZ, as well as responding to technical queries regularly posed to him.

Charles was awarded a Fellow of Engineering New Zealand (formerly IPENZ) in 1998, a Fellow of NZSEE in 2003 and a Life Membership of the Structural Engineering Society, SESOC in 2017.

In recognition of Charles’s deep interest and expertise in the performance of steel structures under seismic conditions and the contribution that he has made to the field of earthquake engineering, Charles is acknowledged for his outstanding commitment to earthquake engineering in New Zealand through this award of Life Member.