Wellington Scoop

Is your building being investigated? Is your building at risk?

Which Wellington buildings are on the list? A total of 352 buildings designed in a similar way to the CTV Building in Christchurch – which collapsed killing 115 people – are being investigated to see if they have similar design faults. Some of the buildings under investigation are in Wellington. But they have not yet been identified.

The New Zealand Herald reported on Saturday that the investigation, by the Department of Building and Housing, was prompted by the catastrophic collapse of the CTV building, which contained major defects even though it was constructed after the 1976 watershed when building codes were strengthened. Engineers now say its columns were brittle, lacked flexibility and had not enough steel components, and this led to their failure. The investigation is looking to identify which buildings have non-ductile columns, which were permitted in building codes till 1995.

The buildings [being investigated] were all constructed between 1982 and 1995, when non-ductile columns were permitted in building codes. Department spokeswoman Susan Owens said the survey of buildings was precautionary. It estimated that of the 352 on the list, 130 are at greater risk.

Beca’s technical director of earthquake engineering, Richard Sharpe, told the Herald:

“Every major portfolio owner is looking at their portfolio and trying to come up with how they will address the different levels of seismic resilience of their buildings and what their policies should be… In the period after the stock exchange crash [in 1986] people wanted them built as leanly and quickly as possible … and certainly clients were not considering that codes were minimum codes, and you could design above them. I think there’s a sea change now, the public has finally realised.”

Over at Eye of the Fish, there are more details of the report from a panel of experts which told the department that it is a top priority to reassess the requirements for earthquake resistance in buildings and to see that necessary changes are made in the light of the Canterbury earthquakes. Among their many recommendations:

Amendments should be aimed at:
• improving structural integrity and resilience
• limiting the irregularity of structures
• encouraging capacity design
• encouraging displacement-based approaches to design and assessment
• avoiding unintended interactions between structural and other parts of a building
• identifying and removing critical vulnerabilities
• introducing compulsory Design Features Reports for significant buildings – new or retrofit
• introducing tighter controls to trigger requirements for earthquake strengthening when buildings are altered or their use is changed.

There is much, much more. All of which leads to a basic question:

How many Wellington buildings are being investigated? What are the results of the investigation?

20 February
Wellington – we have a problem

17 February
Impact of Wellington quake: $37billion

14 February:
Basin Reserve stand yellow-stickered as earthquake prone


  1. Iona Pannett, 13. February 2012, 21:40

    Wellington City Council is doing a significant amount of work to ensure that the city’s buildings are as resilient as possible to earthquakes. A progress report will be sent to Council on the 23rd February as a result.

    As part of this work, the Council is collaborating with the Department of Building and Housing and watching the work of the Royal Commission closely. The structural weaknesses identified by the Department in the CTV collapse will be used as a basis to further evaluate buildings at risk. However, the Council has already done a great deal of work since 2009 to identify public and commercial buildings which might be at risk. As a result, we are aware of a number of buildings which need strengthening and some s124 and s128 notices have already been issued.

    I note that the work the DBH is undertaking is precautionary and this seems sensible. The Council and building owners have strengthened many buildings over the last few decades so Wellingtonians should feel comfortable that some progress has been made. However, more work remains to be done and the next few years will be important in ensuring even more are strengthened.

    Iona Pannett
    Built Environment Portfolio Leader, WCC

  2. Maximus, 14. February 2012, 0:17

    No doubt there will be a few people around town who are in a real flap over this, especially when it comes to try to “identify public and commercial buildings which might be at risk.”

    …at the moment ALL buildings are viewed as being at risk, whether they are or not – and so earthquake insurance premiums are going up massively (the insurance companies never miss a chance to gouge the market, whether it is reasonable or not). I know it’s a difficult call, but if there is any way that Council could put out a list of “buildings NOT considered to be at Risk”, that would be greatly appreciated….!

  3. traveller, 14. February 2012, 10:56

    A few people … in a real flap? More than just a few – all of us who work in the CBD deserve to be told which buildings are unsafe.

  4. Sridhar, 14. February 2012, 13:05

    @ Maximus: I am doubtful insurance companies will reduce premiums if a building is declared safe. They will always find another reason not just to keep the premiums, but to increase them further. How else will those execs get their big fat bonuses?

  5. Ruz, 15. February 2012, 13:24

    I would like to know who was responsible for developing the rules that allowed sub-standard buidings to be constructed over the period 1982-1995. I would like to know why it has taken the Wellington City Council so long to take action on a problem that they have probably known about for many decades. After all everybody knows that Wellington sits on an eathquake fault line.

  6. Laura, 15. February 2012, 17:57

    What Cr Pannett needs to be aware of is that if the Council is demanding that commercial heritage buildings should be strengthened (like mine), owners will need funds (which are provided for by customers). Customers need car parks – so how can I afford to strengthen my building since the Council removed nine car parks on Riddiford Street, and now proposes to remove another twenty for the new supermarket’s access and egress.

  7. Sridhar, 15. February 2012, 21:32

    @Laura! I am again asking you. Do you have any evidence to prove that car parks make a huge difference to your business? Can you prove that removing those 9 car parks has resulted in say a 25 or 50 percent drop in your business? If not, you should stop ranting about loss of car parks and you may want to think how to get customers irrespective of car parks or not. If what you sell is something required and your service is good, customers will be flocking to your shop even without car parks.

  8. Maximus, 16. February 2012, 7:29

    Ruz – you have the wrong end of the stick. It is not that “rules that allowed sub-standard buidings to be constructed over the period 1982-1995.” but more that the government has been periodically raising the strength levels of what a building needs to be built to. Think of it like a car built today compared to a car built 20 years ago. Now we have airbags, anti-rollover suspension, automatic windows, side impact bars etc. Twenty 20 years ago, cars didn’t have those – but they were built to the standards required at the time. No doubt in another 20 years time, people will look back on the cars of today and wonder that they didn’t have anti-gravity straps, atomic propulsion systems, only 4 airbags instead of 120 etc etc.

    Laura – where is this shop of yours? I want to come and shop there and buy things so that you stop wingeing.

  9. Sridhar, 20. February 2012, 14:24

    Given the time since you asked, Maximus, I don’t think Laura is interested in getting your business. She would rather continue to psyche the council over her car parks.

  10. Laura, 21. February 2012, 8:05

    Maximus and Sridhar – you are both very welcome to come into my shop and purchase flowers, I’d appreciate your business and I value my customers. After many discussions with Council, I can now compromise and move forward and will start promoting the 240 car parks at the rear of my shop as parking for my customers at the supermarket site. ” Psyche the Council” was well worth it, because closed mouths don’t get fed.

  11. Sridhar, 22. February 2012, 14:04

    @Laura. Let’s see if those 240 car parks can now be a catalyst for your business. That will be an interesting study.

  12. The City is Ours, 22. February 2012, 21:19

    We would like to thank Laura for saving her community by going it alone all the way to the bank. If it had not been for Laura’s tenacity and persistence and Councillor Eagle’s help we would have nothing to celebrate.