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Building exoskeletons too big?

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:20 26/06/2014

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Wellington

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Use of an increasingly popular earthquake strengthening method could be limited amid concerns it takes away too much public space.

Wellington City Council is developing guidelines to determine where "exoskeletal" structures can be built on the outside of buildings in a bid to improve the building's earthquake-prone status.

In a presentation to the council's transport and urban development committee this morning, officers warned that while the use of the structures - which are built on the exterior of buildings to add strength - was uncommon at the moment, it was expected become more popular as the deadlines for owners to strengthen their buildings loomed.

It was often considered the most economical way to bring the building in line with the building code.

"It is anticipated that as we get closer and closer to deadlines ... we may get more and more building owners requesting that exoskeletal types of frames are allowed to be utilised," city networks manager Stavros Michael said.

Chief asset officer Anthony Wilson said for many owners the exoskeletal structure would be seen as "the easy way out".

However, while the option might be popular for owners it was not always the best choice for the city, Michael said.

Most buildings were already flush with the edge of the footpath, and external frames therefore would encroach into the public space, reducing the level of amenity for the public.

Among the concerns was the creation of shaded areas, loss of space and the impact on infrastructure underneath the pavement, which might have to be pushed out into roadways, creating more disruption when maintenance was carried out.

In some areas the impact would be minimal and the structures could be used, but the council needed a consistent approach when approving or declining applications, he said.

Building resilience manager Neville Brown said the council's position was that exoskeletal structures should be the final resort for building owners, but there was a "small trend" to opt for it first.

The proposed guidelines include assessing the impact on footpaths, parking, cycle lanes and the building's heritage needs.

Councillors agreed there needed to be guidelines, but asked officers to report back to the next committee meeting with specific guidelines for them to approve.

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- The Dominion Post

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