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Research and development is the life blood that runs through HERA’s veins. We work hard to drive innovation in the heavy engineering industry to create clear pathways of opportunity for our members.

We’re able to deliver value through income generated from several sources, of most significance is the industry contribution we receive through the Heavy Engineering Research Levy Act.  This governs us to put research and development at the core of what we do.

Our small team of researchers and key personnel work in collaboration with universities and associations to deliver value to our members. We take research programs on board in structural steel, light gauge steel, composite action, welding, industry capability and business acumen.

For us, innovating through research and development is key.  Especially if we want to advance products and services, find smarter and more efficient ways to do things and create a point of difference that sets our industry apart.  That’s why we encourage our members to be a part of the journey every step of the way.

Sustainability research

Development of numerical indentation simulation to facilitate structural steel reuse

Steel re-use has the potential of saving up to 96% of environmental impacts compared to new steel, so it significantly improves construction sustainability.

One of the hypothesised barriers to steel re-use is a concern related to steel properties. To re-use structural steel elements, it must be verified that they have not been subjected to yield stress. To determine this, lab testing is required or conservative re-use assumptions must be made.

Lab testing is intrusive and costly, so it likely to be amongst the most important barriers to structural element re-use.

This research project will investigate the feasibility of non-intrusive, cost-effective approaches to estimate mechanical properties of structural steel to facilitate re-use. This will include:

  • development of the required finite element models;
  • sensitivity analysis of the numerical simulation results; and
  • study of the role of non-intrusive test data, finite element analysis and mathematical frameworks in the estimation of steel mechanical properties.

Making steel the low carbon choice – formulating the vision to reality

While efforts are being made by steel mills in the development of “green” steel, we are re-thinking how we use structures. Our steel carbon calculator is assisting designers to consider the embodied carbon during the design of new steel structures.

The purpose of this research is to build upon these efforts and will investigate the current state, latest developments, and potential of:

  • wastage management and its reduction for both structural, and non-structural, components;
  • the drivers and challenges with reusing and repurposing steel. This includes incorporating our proposal to develop a material passport for structural steel re-use; and reviewing and incorporating where possible – current international guidance such as SCI P427 Structural Steel Reuse;
  • re-thinking the standard 50 or 100 years design life to explore questions such as: how long is long enough? How do we balance climate resilience and durability? What do we need to know to design durable long-life structures in a changing climate? What does a 100+ year high rise building or 200+ year bridge look like? And;
  • challenging how we design and build steel structures. For example, could we develop more material-efficient steel members and components? And, what constraints are there in our design of modular structures whose use and purpose are easily changed?

A literature review of the current state of the art will be undertaken, including reviewing recent publications issued by the Steel Sustainability Council, that will form the basis for this project.

The project deliverable will be the development and dissemination of guidelines to unlock the sustainability benefits of steel, as well as recommendations for future research as required.

Material passport for structural steel re-use

Structural steel members have the potential to be re-used across multiple construction projects over time. In certain circumstances (given the availability of required data), a quick initial review can be conducted to identify the suitability of re-use before demolition.

This research will aim to identify roadblocks and barriers to the re-use of structural steel.

This project will first investigate the role of a data platform in facilitating steel re-use, and development of a material passport decision-making framework.

To meet these aims, the research encompasses four main steps:

  1. investigating the status of re-use, recycling and landfill rates of structural steel in New Zealand,
  2. identifying all barriers to re-use steel in New Zealand,
  3. identifying relevant data that is required to decrease barriers, encourage, or reuse throughout the supply chain, and;
  4. developing a material passport framework using the relevant data.

Online corrosion category map

We’ve recently developed a GIS model covering the whole of NZ with shapefiles of the corrosion categories. These are based on Table 2 from TS3404 which have been overlaid on more general datasets that we’ve developed jointly with NIWA and used for the maps in TS3404.

The resultant tool will enable users to search by address and determine the corrosion classification based on Table 2. This will also identify how close a site is to the boundary of a corrosion classification. Such sites may require more in-depth investigation before allocating a classification.

This tool will assist engineers to improve the specification of steel coatings for the correct macro-climate corrosion zone and support the correct specification and improved durability.

Quality & design research

Shear connectors


Evaluation in existing composite bridges

This research looks at us evaluating the maximum load capacity of composite bridges through bridge surveys focused on identifying the most widely used shear connector types and their geometries.  This work will allow structural reliability analyses on design provisions to open up existing highway networks to heavier and higher productivity motor vehicles within required safety margins.

Improving steel and composite construction standards


First joint harmonised standard between Australia and New Zealand: AS/NZS 5100.6

This work looks to align our standards with international best practice and work opportunities, while significantly improving composite and fatigue design as we seek to drive ingenuity in steel construction.

Seismic research


Welding trials using NDT, mechanical testing and finite element analysis

This research is focused on optimising weld details for seismic connections to help our members confidently select the best performing and most cost-effective weld solutions in critical seismic connections.

Non-destructive testing


Meeting New Zealand structural steel design and fabrication standards

Developing a comprehensive data base to develop statistical models linking inspection with reliability levels for members.  This involves assessment of DR AS/NZS 5131 Structural Steelwork / Fabrication and Erection standard.  Which introduces the concept of ‘construction category’ to link the importance level of a structure and provide minimum levels of workmanship to ensure design assumptions remain valid.  But is yet to be linked to reliability classes.

Developing a fabrication and erection of steel standard


Development of Standards AS/NZS 5131 and AS/NZS 5100.6

This work will be critical to our SFC Scheme – allowing us to keep our members up to date with technological advances and quality requirements in the market.  The delivery of these standards will provide a competitive edge against increasing imports, the globalisation of construction product sourcing and changes in procurement practices that raise the risk of non-compliance.

Structural fire research to improve the accuracy of the slab panel method (SPM)

Multi-storey steel and composite steel/concrete structures typically are comprised of a concrete floor slab on steel decking. This is then supported horizontally on a network of secondary and primary steel beams and vertically on columns.

The slab panel method (SPM) design procedure for designing composite steel floor systems for severe fires is fundamentally different from traditional fire protection provisions used in New Zealand.

This design procedure offers significant opportunities to provide cost-effective floor systems that meet or exceed the fire safety provisions of the New Zealand Building Code.

Performance-based fire design of multi-storey steel and composite structures

We plan to develop a detailed guide on performance-based fire design of multi-storey steel and composite (steel/concrete) structures.

The demand/capacity document is a comprehensive and systemic report covering the possible fire development in different structures and the structure design of the structural components. A detailed reference and explanation will help designers understand how and why structures would perform in fire.


General Manager Structural Systems


General Manager Fabrication 4.0 | Welding Centre