Strengthening of leaning Christchurch hotel begins

HOTEL GRAND CHANCELLOR: In a precarious state.
HOTEL GRAND CHANCELLOR: In a precarious state.

Stabilising Christchurch's tilting 26-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor building, which threatens to crash down on nearby streets, is going to take three weeks.

Christchurch City Council building evaluation manager Steve McCarthy said work started yesterday pouring concrete into moulds beside damaged walls in the ground floor foyer.

Once set, the concrete pads would be used as a base to prop up the southeast corner of the hotel.

Steel jackets would then be wrapped around three damaged columns on the building's 12th level.

Mr McCarthy said the building had not moved since it began tilting a week ago and it was difficult to assess its capacity to resist further shocks.

But once the strengthening work was done, it should be stable enough to allow search and rescue teams into the hotel and the block immediately opposite, including the Holiday Inn.

Mr McCarthy expected the hotel would then have to be demolished. It would probably have to be dismantled piece by piece rather than demolished with a wrecking ball or explosives.

Don Forbes, the retired builder and developer of the Hotel Grand Chancellor building, which was completed in two stages before it was bought and finally fitted out as a hotel in 1995, said it had been overwhelmed by the forces of nature.

New Zealand's best engineers and architects were involved in the construction, and foundation piles were driven 12 metres into gravel.

"But the fact of the matter is that no building in the world will hold up if you've got this sort of ground movement."

"You can have the best architects, the best engineers and the best contractors but if nature's going to drag things away from the foundations, there's nothing you can do."

Mr McCarthy said the earthquake forces were such that buildings were lifted with an acceleration of 2g – twice the force of gravity – and then dropped again.

The Dominion Post