Call to 'tie together' Cuba St buildings
METRO CHIEF REPORTER
Heritage buildings on Cuba St could be "tied together" using steel rods to prevent catastrophic failure and significant loss of life.
Wellington's Cuba St is the focus of a ground-breaking design research project investigating methods for strengthening precincts of old buildings likely to collapse in a big tremor.
Victoria University School of Architecture is carrying out the research and says the envisaged engineering work has rarely been attempted internationally.
Cuba St is a registered heritage area. But many of its unreinforced masonry buildings are earthquake-prone. A 2010 Greater Wellington regional council report predicted 1500 people would die and 13,000 suffer injuries in a 7.1 magnitude quake.
The Historic Places Trust has teamed up with the School of Architecture. They are about to launch a pilot design project involving 90 fourth-year students, which will investigate "leading- edge technology" solutions to strengthen at-risk individual buildings and building clusters.
School of Architecture associate professor Andrew Charleson said this had rarely been done internationally and could involve "tying" buildings together with horizontal steel rods.
The project would form part of the students' assessment and had backing from Wellington City Council.
Though "purely theoretical", it was hoped student-devised solutions would be implemented by building owners to preserve the important heritage area and make it safer.
"We really hope we're going to come up with ideas that some building owners will find attractive. We want the material to be helpful to everybody just to make a contribution. We're all keen on having a safe and enduring Cuba St."
Historic Places Trust central region co-ordinator David Watt said the project was being launched next month with an information evening for property owners.
If successful, the pilot might be extended to significant earthquake-prone buildings on Courtenay Place.
He conceded that the cost of earthquake strengthening work was still a barrier and said the trust backed calls for incentives such as rates rebates for building owners who carried out strengthening work.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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