Newer building one of worst hit in quake

One of Wellington's newer buildings has suffered some of the worst quake damage, while known quake-prone buildings nearby were unscathed.

The CentrePort-owned $100 million Harbour Quays on Waterloo Quay, which has housed 1200 BNZ staff since it was built in 2009, suffered extensive water damage after sprinkler pipes burst as ceilings collapsed. Repairs and other costs are expected to run to millions of dollars and it could be several weeks before the bank staff can get back into the building.

CentrePort chairman Warren Larsen insisted yesterday that the building itself had not failed.

"That building was built to the highest possible standards and, structurally, it delivered exactly in the way the engineer said it would, but it's these internal fitting issues that have caused the damage."

However, he was concerned about what happened, disappointed that its tenants suffered so much disruption, and determined to establish the cause.

"We will get to the bottom of why the light fittings and ceilings fell down . . . in discussion with the engineering people and the contractors who put it up."

Meanwhile, some of CentrePort's older buildings that were known to be quake-prone, including the former rugby union headquarters and old unstrengthened brick wharf sheds, were unscathed, he said. "Some performed remarkably well in the earthquake, so we're asking ourselves, what's going on here?"

Mr Larsen believed the large open-plan offices, especially on upper floors, which were subjected to greater movement, accentuated the problems. "Desks and furniture become missile-like."

Engineers should have been aware of such hazards, he said.

He had no idea what it would cost to fix the building and recompense the BNZ. Liability was a key issue and he hoped lengthy litigation could be avoided.

BNZ spokeswoman Emily Davies said most parts of the building were affected by water damage after dislodged ceiling panels fell on pipes and broke them.

"Construction specialists are starting to fully assess the damage inside and how long it will take to get things back to working order.

"Initial assessments suggest it could be at least six to eight weeks to make the necessary repairs to the fit-out of the building."

Most staff were still working from home. "It's too early to talk about costs. Right now we're focused on what needs doing for the welfare and safety of our staff and continuity of services for customers."

Harbour Quays was designed by Jasmax, engineered by Beca and built by Fletcher Construction. Project architect John Dennehy did not wish to comment and Beca managing director Don Lyon was not prepared to discuss problems with the building.

The neighbouring Statistics NZ head office also suffered water damage after the quake. Spokeswoman Kelly Mitchell said leaking or burst pipes caused minor cosmetic damage, and all floors were now back in use.

The Dominion Post