The mezzanine in Masterton library that requires earthquake strengthening. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE

No higher risk than in 1982

STEVE RENDLE
steve.rendle@age.co.nz

Urgent bracing work will be carried out on Masterton’s public library after the mezzanine floor was found to be earthquake prone in an engineering assessment.

But Masterton District Council is emphasising the situation is not the same as that facing Wellington’s library and town hall – both now closed – and chief executive Kath Ross said the library should remain open for what is likely to be eight weeks of work.

The council engaged LGE Consulting to carry out a detailed seismic assessment that found the connections between horizontal beams holding up the mezzanine floor and upright concrete columns should be strengthened.

Ross said “this connection alone” resulted in the building being assessed at 25 per cent of the New Building Standard. Any buildings at less than 34 per cent are considered earthquake-prone.

In its report, LGE Consulting said “if this connection was remediated the building would achieve a rating of 70 per cent”.

The building will be stickered to show it is earthquake-prone, and Ross said the work would be started as soon as a building consent had been issued, likely to take about four weeks.

“We don’t have to do it now – under the law we have 15 years to fix the issue,” Ross said.

“But we want to get on with that now.”

The mezzanine area is above the book issuing and return area, and includes administration spaces and a staff cafe.

“We have discussed the assessment with engineers to determine whether the building should be closed to the public, such as was the case with the Wellington Library and the Masterton Town Hall,” Ms Ross said.

“This is a very different situation and we have decided it does not need to be closed. A public notice will be put up to ensure library visitors are aware of the building’s status.

“Alternative working arrangements will be made for staff not wishing to work in the affected area . . . We are also happy to manage any requests from the public if they choose not to go through that area.”

Ross said there was no higher risk in the building today than there was in 1982 when the building was constructed.

“What has changed are the rules around identifying earthquake-prone buildings and the process which building owners need to follow to bring buildings up to standard.”