Research institute GNS Science expects world-leading research it is carrying out in the lower North Island to lead to building techniques that will allow the construction of houses with maximum resistance to earthquake shaking.
The research involves triggering explosions in 12 boreholes drilled across the island from the Kapiti Coast to the Wairarapa coast and recording the resulting image of the tectonic plate that lies up to 25kms below.
GNS principal scientist Stuart Henrys says this is the first time researchers have been able to take a good look at the intersection between the Pacific and Australian plates.
He says it will allow scientists to understand how the ground moves in a particular area in an earthquake.
"If we have a precise geometry, then we can model what the ground shaking will be - which areas will go up and down, and how to design resilience into buildings to accommodate that."
That information will then be fed into the results of other research and GNS hopes the science can be translated into new construction methods within 15 years.
Mr Henrys says it is the first time three-dimensional images of tectonic plate boundaries have been recorded and there has been interest in the research from Japanese and American scientists.