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More buildings fail design standards

By Don Farmer
[email protected]

A further five near-new commercial buildings owned by Lands Trust Masterton (LTM) have been identified as potentially failing seismic design standards.

All five were built between 2004 and this year and according to street numbers supplied by LTM are the Seddon Building (Lone Star), Dixon Street, the Elliot Building at 100 Queen Street, Waiata House in Lincoln Road and Super Cheap Auto and Farmlands in Chapel Street.

The five were all designed by the same structural engineering firm and initial assessments puts them as being between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the New Building Standard.

On that assessment none would be classified as earthquake prone.

Six others LTM-owned buildings were identified earlier this year with the same problems and three of those have now been determined, after detailed assessments, to be earthquake prone as they are below 34 per cent of NBS.

The remaining three have been assessed as between 34 and 67 per cent of NBS.

LTM general manager Andrew Croskery said yesterday the five additional buildings had been identified after initial structural assessments commissioned by the trust were done and the results received.

“Once we became aware of the concerns with the first six buildings we took a proactive approach to assess the other five buildings designed by the same structural engineering firm,

“The next step is to have these five buildings also assessed in detail.

“Now that we have a better understanding of the extent of the issues with the first six buildings, we are working to identify how we can address these and what that will cost.

We also need to understand what has gone wrong. These are complicated issues that we are using experts to help us work through.

“We want to work as quickly as possible to put in place a plan of action to ensure that all buildings comply with Building Act requirements,” Mr Croskery said.

He said tenants of the commercial buildings would be kept properly informed.

BACKGROUND TIME LINE

May 2016

Lands Trust Masterton (LTM) was advised by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment that the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ (IPENZ) had asked MBIE to review the design documents for six trust buildings after an IPENZ member had raised concerns. LTM agreed to MBIE commissioning Initial Seismic Assessments (ISAs) of the six buildings and assisted MBIE in the review process. The six affected buildings were built between 2003 and 2014.

Late June 2016

Initial Seismic Assessments on the six buildings identified by MBIE were received by LTM. One building was assessed as potentially ‘earthquake prone’ (less than 33 percent of the New Building Standard). The other five were assessed as potentially ‘earthquake risk’ (between 34 and 67 percent of the NBS).

Late July 2016

LTM commissioned Initial Structural Assessments of five additional buildings that had been structurally designed by the same structural engineering firm.

Late August 2016

Detailed independent structural reviews of the first six buildings, found that three of the buildings are earthquake prone (below 34 percent of the NBS) and three are earthquake risk (34-67 percent of the NBS).
Initial Seismic Assessments for the additional five buildings assessed these buildings as potentially between 50 and 70 percent of the NBS.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Clearly there are number of factors that have contributed here, but some factors that may have allowed this alleged malpractice to continue unchecked could be –

    The council cannot afford or find a structural engineer to asses building applications for compliance. Remember when we had a “borough” engineer?

    The council is unwilling to engage consultants to do assess these applications for them.

    MBIE are allowing BCA’s to rely on “Producer Statements” and membership of a professional body (CPENG) as reasonable grounds of demonstrating compliance to the code without actually checking the calculations themselves.

    As a reaction to the leaky building debacle the 2004 Building Act generally facilitated a push to shift perceived liability into the private sector instead resting with local government. Simply put the BCA has no appetite to verify compliance to B1 of the code (structure). Whilst the success of this has not been tested through the courts yet, personally I believe that reliance on a Producer Statement does not absolve the BCA’s responsibility to verify what presented complies to the code and does not present value added to those who pay for the processing of such consents.

    I am not excusing poorly conceived designs, or suggesting the government is entirely to blame for not picking this up through processing however the time to question compliance to the code should be before consent is granted and not after we constructed, and occupied buildings in what is a very seismically active area in New Zealand (approx. +27% more EQ demand than Chch).

  2. I would have thought doing all the alterations for LONE STAR, that they would have also checked to see about Earthquake safety and done it, seems wait till the horse has bolted then realise its problems.

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