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Thailand’s tallest Buddha statue has an AIT connection

When the tallest statue of Lord Buddha was being created in Thailand, the Crown Property Bureau thought of one organization to fall back upon for checking and verifying the stability of the structure — the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

Thailand’s tallest Buddha statue has an AIT connection

Prof. Pennung Warnitchai with the model of Buddha Metta Statue.

The 32-metre tall Phra Phuttha Metta Pracha Thai Trailokkanat Khanthararat Anuson, which was inaugurated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in Kanchanaburi’s Huay Krachao district, has a very strong association with AIT. Thailand’s premier earthquake expert, Prof. Pennung Warnitchai of AIT’s School of Engineering and Technology (SET) provided the Structural Design Review of the statue which was inaugurated in December 2015.

“It is the tallest standing configuration in Thailand, and we were asked to review the design to ensure that the structure has the ability to withstand extreme wind and ground shaking caused by earthquakes,” Prof. Pennung says. Moreover, the structure is unique since it is not in a sitting position, which would provide it stability. Instead, the standing pose has the entire structure standing on two legs, which raises serious design and stability challenges.

“AIT was chosen, since we are not only an independent education and research institute, but we also possess the expertise, and we cohost (along with Thammasat University) the largest wind tunnel in Thailand,” he says. Prof. Pennung is a recognized leader in this field having developed the design standards in Thailand for both earthquakes and winds.

Kanchanaburi province, where the statue was to be created, is known to possess active faults, and although no major earthquake has been recorded in the area, it has a strong seismic threat.  “We checked the stability for earthquakes and winds based on a 1000-year return period,” Prof Penning says. Considering an average wind speed of 40.7 metres per second, and a peak speed which is 60-70 per cent higher, we checked the maximum sway and twists for the front-back as well as side configurations.

A critical factor was that while in ordinary structures, there can be an allowance for some damage, but in this case, we are not taking any chances, Prof. Pennung says.

The steel structure, the connection between the leg and the base, the concrete base, and the rock foundation were analyzed. Similarly forces, stresses and deformations were checked with the corresponding ability to withstand these pressures. The AIT report found that all primary members of the structure were up to the mark, though some secondary members had minor issues. “Our recommendations provided the basis for some design corrections,which were then implemented,” Prof. Pennung adds.

Led by Prof. Pennung, the team included Dr. Punchet Thammarak, lecturer in Structural Engineering at AIT;   Mr. Thaung Htut Aung and Mr. Mohiul Islam Ahmed of AIT Consulting; and Mr. Kanin Srisopa, a doctoral student working with Prof. Pennung.

The AIT Report titled “Structural Design Review of Buddha Metta Statue, Kanchanaburi, Thailand” was submitted in February 2013, following which its recommendations were incorporated in the final design. Construction began shortly thereafter, and in December 2015 it was inaugurated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

News coverage of the AIT contribution is also available at these links:
ThaiRath http://www.thairath.co.th/content/554557
Daily News http://www.dailynews.co.th/women/370983