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Structural design engineer fixed dangerous structures

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To provide a solution to the wobbling tower lights at the SCG, he teamed up with younger academics to write computer programs for vibration analysis, perform structural tests on key components, and instrument the towers for vibration measurements, finally proposing effective measures to dampen vibrations.

Trahair created the Center for Advanced Structural Engineering at the University of Sydney to strengthen links with industry in 1989. Through the center, he worked on projects such as the design and testing of components for the Olympic stadiums for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Amid the focus on high-quality teaching and research, he was a formidable bowler in the annual cricket matches between PhD students and staff. Throughout his 38-year career at the University of Sydney, he maintained a strong and ongoing connection to academic research, teaching, and industry collaboration.

Nicholas Trahair was an accomplished bowler in matches between staff and PhD students.

He also created at the University of Sydney the research post, the BHP Steel Chair (1990) together with the then Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Steel Construction. At the time, it was the first industry-funded chair of engineering at the University of Sydney.

He continued his research after retiring in 1999 and was called in as an advisor to several major projects, including the design of the arch for Wembley Stadium in 2000, a world first in terms of its structural form and scale.

The arch consisted of some 500 individual steel tubes, joined together to form an elegant 450m long fully welded lattice structure. It was designed from the early principles of structural engineering by a Connell Wagner design team.

To build trust within the project team, Trahair was asked to conduct an independent review of the design methodology and confirm that it provided adequate structural reliability. Their verification of the proposed approach gave the team the confidence they were looking for in their design.

When the West Stand at WIN Stadium in Wollongong buckled in strong winds in 2011, the local government appointed him an independent expert to oversee and instill confidence in the redesign.

From 1964 to 1995, he was a member of the Steel Structures committee of Standards Australia, which produced steel design codes and the first code for cold-formed steel structures. He was also instrumental in moving Australian steel design into the computer age, developing a software design package that is used almost universally in Australia and New Zealand for routine design of steel structures.

Nick’s contributions to the research, design and teaching of steel structures are enormous. He was the author of two seminal books, Behavior and design of steel structures Y Bending-torsional buckling of structures and more than 220 research papers.

Nicholas Trahair was a consultant on the design of the new Wembley Stadium.

Nicholas Trahair was a consultant on the design of the new Wembley Stadium.Credit:AP

It was his research on the lateral buckling of steel structures that earned him an international position in structural stability. This work earned him numerous national and international awards, including six medals and awards from the Institution of Engineers.

He was known for his clear thinking and concise writing, which he patiently imparted to younger students and colleagues. His influence will live on both in his research and published books, as well as in the accomplishments of the many students and professionals he taught and mentored.

After retiring, he traveled extensively and played golf and bridge. He continued to write articles on structural engineering and corresponded with his colleagues about work until a week before he died of interstitial lung disease on May 19.

He is survived by Sally, four children, Jeremy, Lisa, Andrew, and Benjamin, and six grandchildren. His son Jonathan passed away before him, who died of heart disease in 2020.

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