by Lindsay Shelton
When the results of the investigation into earthquake damage to Statistics House were released on Friday, CentrePort was faced not only with criticism of a serious design flaw in its building but also with questions about why “critical” repair work had not been completed.
But rather than expressing any concern about the results, CentrePort instead “welcomed” the report’s conclusions and highlighted the finding that its damaged structure had complied with the Building Code of the day when it was built in 2005.
On this subject, when he released the report Building Minister Nick Smith was less forgiving:
“The performance of Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake was unacceptable and could have caused fatalities…. The building was designed to the industry practice of the time but this did not fully account for the effects of beam elongation during an earthquake, an issue that was deficient in the Concrete Structures Standard at the time of the design…A modern building like Statistics House should not have had life-threatening structural damage.”
Not a response that should have been “welcome” to CentrePort.
And as for strengthening work that hadn’t been completed, the response from CentrePort’s chief executive was not to give any explanation but only to say that the investigators “… acknowledge the effectiveness of the strengthening work we were working with our tenants to complete when the earthquake struck.”
Whereas more serious issues were summarised by MP Grant Robertson:
“The report …shows that in 2013 the owners of the building, Centreport, received a report that recommended as a ‘critical element’ strengthening floor units at the four corners of the building. This work had been completed on one floor by the time of November’s quake and that floor did not sustain damage. The work had not been done on the floors where the serious collapse occurred.
“Why had that work, identified as ‘critical’, not been done in the three years before November’s quake? Why were staff still working in the building when ‘critical’ work had not been fully completed? This could have had catastrophic consequences if people had been at work.”
And what of CentrePort’s tenants who might have been killed if the quake had happened during working hours? The Government Statistician Liz MacPherson says she hopes the findings of the investigation will prevent future failures of this kind:
“I remain forever grateful that the quake struck after midnight when no one was in Statistics House. It is my hope that CentrePort and their insurers can now accelerate decisions regarding the future of Statistics House. Staff who worked in the building are keen to know what’s going to happen.”
Concerns which CentrePort would do well to acknowledge.
For the owners and the occupiers of similar buildings, the report makes a serious and specific recommendation:
Existing buildings in the Wellington region (not just the Wellington City CBD) that have a similar design to Statistics House (buildings with precast floor systems and frames that may be affected by beam elongation) should be investigated as soon as possible to determine if precast floor seating problems exist as a result of the Kaikōura earthquake.