Safety of building assessed

Porse House in Blenheim
Porse House in Blenheim

Engineers have suggested ways to strengthen the only building in Marlborough similar to the Canterbury Television (CTV) building that collapsed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the building's owners said yesterday.

T H Barnes chief executive John Smithies said an assessment of the Market St building had been made after the Government asked councils in October to check buildings with similarities to Christchurch's CTV building that collapsed killing 115 people.

The engineers had suggested some improvements to the building, known as Porse House, he said.

These included wrapping the columns in Kevlar.

Mr Smithies said a detailed assessment of the building was being prepared, and this would be passed on to the council and to the building's tenants.

"Anything that needs to be done, we'd like to get into it as quickly as possible to give our tenants peace of mind.

"Obviously safety of our tenants is the most important thing."

The strengthening work was "nothing major", he said, and should not have any impact on tenants. It was not in the office space of the building, but was "just a bit invasive" into its structure, he said.

The cost of the work was not yet known, he said. The buildings had the same designer, but not the same engineer. An engineer who worked on the CTV building has been under investigation for falsifying his qualifications.

Marlborough District Council regulatory manager Hans Versteegh said the council had been given a verbal rundown on the engineers' findings by Mr Smithies.

"There is nothing major, it is all do-able, and reasonably straight forward as far as I can see."

He said the work discussed included putting a Kevlar wrap around the building's columns.

Mr Smithies said a lot of buildings in Blenheim were either in need of earthquake strengthening, some had been strengthened and some were in the process of it.

The Government had started a review of standards for earthquake-prone buildings, he said, to see if a single standard was needed.

"At present, every council has their own requirements. The Marlborough District Council's requirements are probably the most onerous in the country.

"They give landlords five years to strengthen it as close to the current code as economically viable. Other areas, you get from 10 to 15 years. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Education is looking at 10 years. Our council is very very hard on it."

The ministry's building and housing group had reviewed buildings throughout New Zealand that were three storeys or more and built between 1982 and 1995, to identify buildings that had some of the same issues as the CTV building.

It found 158 buildings identified as needing further investigation because they had non-ductile concrete columns, which lack flexibility, a spokeswoman said. One of those was in Blenheim.

"This does not mean that buildings with non-ductile columns are at risk of collapse. It is important to note that where buildings do have non-ductile columns, it might not be an issue depending on other factors such as the design of the building."

The CTV building, built in 1986, combined several factors that were unlikely to appear in exactly the same combination in other buildings, the spokeswoman said.

The Marlborough Express