Wellington Scoop

Demolition in Aitken Street


At the start of last month, the owners denied that Defence House in Aitken Street would be demolished. But yesterday it was a different story.

Buried in the middle of a meandering media release from the NZ Defence Force was this news:

This week, AMP Capital advised the NZDF that it was going to demolish Defence House. AMP Capital advises that the building can be repaired but that the cost of repairs is not economically viable. As Defence House does not present any immediate health and safety risk, the demolition will be completed by “deconstruction” – meaning that the building will be taken apart in a controlled manner. Long-term accommodation options for the NZDF and MoD in Wellington are under consideration, as we work out of our interim accommodation.

Leviathan writes on eyeofthefish that there is to be an official report about the state of the “defenseless building”, but it has been delayed till April:

it is fair enough that Wellingtonians get upset about this forthcoming demolition – [it’s a] new building after all, just a decade old, and therefore, broadly speaking, the same system as other modern buildings are being built today. In short: the public will (or already has?) lose faith in the ability of architects and especially engineers to provide a decent stable structural solution…

The building looks untouched from the outside. The precast cladding panels and double glazed windows are still in impeccable condition. There are a few cracked tiles in one corner, and a disturbing lump in the pavement up the street opposite, and the blinds are all drawn, but you wouldn’t really know a thing was wrong with the building otherwise… I had thought that maybe, like a few other recent buildings in town, the services in the ceiling had collapsed and brought the ceiling tiles down on top of the desks, setting off the sprinklers etc. But we heard today a quite startling thing – that it had fallen off its base isolation. I’m staggered on two points – one, that it was base isolated in the first place, but secondly – that a building could actually “jump off” its base isolated foundations…

I’m not sure whether I believe either of those stories – but … if the building was in fact base isolated then this could also explain what happened – there wasn’t an adequate movement joint installed around the edge of the building and so when the building swayed on its rubber piles, it effectively ran into a solid wall and battered itself off its own feet. It was, literally, left defenseless.


When Prime Minister Helen Clark opened the new seven-storey building on 28 March 2007, reports highlighted energy efficiency, with no mention of seismic strength.

Its architects’ website says it was built to high seismic and security standards. But there is no further information on the building’s seismic rating. Expect such details in the official report next month.

Council guide to quake-prone buildings


  1. Rumpole, 6. March 2017, 11:59

    Amazing that our Defence Force is housed in this privately owned building. Another legacy of the Douglas era. Our courts could be next.

  2. Guy M, 6. March 2017, 15:01

    Well Rumpole, most of our government departments are now housed in privately owned buildings, not just Defense. The gov decided many years ago that it would rather not be the biggest property owner in town, and that the money from the sale of buildings could be better used by gov on the people of NZ.

    In retrospect it is good news – by off-loading the price of providing a building to the private sector, they can then demand better buildings from their landlords and move departments out of buildings when they need them. Its also very good business sense as when an earthquake hits, the cost is not borne solely by the Gov, but is shared around amongst the private sector landlords. It’s all about the dollars…

  3. Traveller, 8. March 2017, 10:08

    Does this mean that the adjacent National Library will have to close during the demolition period? (As happened with the Readings cinemas next to the carpark demolition). If so, it’ll be sad news for everyone.

  4. Guy M, 9. March 2017, 16:55

    I shouldn’t think so, as they are proposing to “deconstruct” rather than demolish. Hopefully that means a crane will lift things out, rather than having a giant muncher like Big Bertha who ate 61 Molesworth and the cinema car park. There is absolutely no chance of the building “accidentally falling over”, in case that’s what you are thinking.