Boarders hostel under threat

Historic building deemed an earthquake risk

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
mcmenamin
CHARLOTTE CURD/Fairfax NZ

HEART OF SCHOOL: New Plymouth Boys’ High School headmaster Michael McMenamin stands in front of the school’s Carrington House, which has been declared an earthquake risk.

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A historic boarders' hostel at New Plymouth Boys' High School may face demolition after being deemed an earthquake risk.

Carrington House, which opened in 1916, is one of five buildings at the school that has been confirmed as earthquake-prone.

The two-storey rough cast concrete building, owned by the board of trustees, failed an engineer's seismic assessment last year and students have had to shift out of it.

The board must now decide to either strengthen the building at an estimated cost of at least $1 million, or demolish it and build a new hostel wing, headmaster Michael McMenamin said.

The move for non-residential buildings to be tested, graded and potentially undergo seismic strengthening came after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, which killed 185 people.

A bill currently before Parliament proposes all non-residential, and multi-storey residential buildings built before mid-2005 would have to undergo assessment.

While the future of Carrington House was unknown the remaining four earthquake-prone buildings on the school grounds would be strengthened, Mr McMenamin said.

The cost of strengthening the hostel's at-risk dining hall, common room, lounge and hostel master's house has been estimated to be between $400,000 and $500,000.

However, because Carrington House needed such extensive work it could cost the board of trustees in excess of $1m for the strengthening.

All five buildings are owned by the board of trustees, not the Ministry of Education, which means the board would have to come up with the cash.

Mr McMenamin said thousands of boys have called Carrington House home over the years and the building was in the "heart of the school".

Because of the historic significance of Carrington House, which has stood overlooking the Gully for nearly 100 years, old boys, former members of the board of trustees, and present staff and students would be consulted about its future.

"We've either got to strengthen it or pull it down and rebuild. Either way it's a major cost, and money we don't yet have, but there's the history to think of as well," Mr McMenamin said.

"It's an important building in the history of our school, and this has been a very emotional time for many. Every old boy of our school will know Carrington House."

School executive officer and board secretary Michael Graham said the public feedback would shape what would happen to Carrington House.

"A lot of the buildings in the school have been assessed and a lot of them have passed, but these hostel buildings haven't," he said. "As soon as the board heard that Carrington House was a grade E we moved the boys out of there."

The board of trustees is getting quotes to find out how much the building would cost to strengthen, and how much it would cost to demolish and rebuild.

Mr McMenamin said once the quotes were confirmed the information would be made public and the consultation process would begin next month.

"We are looking at the future of our hostel and what we want it to be like in 10, 20, 30 years time. In every challenge lies an opportunity," he said.

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The school is not alone in its earthquake-prone building woes.

Yesterday the Taranaki Daily News revealed an extra 350-450 buildings in the New Plymouth District may have to be assessed if proposed changes, currently before Parliament, pass into law.

The New Plymouth District Council originally identified 390 buildings that needed assessing.

Currently 342 assessments have been done and 172 of those buildings needed an expensive and detailed seismic assessment.

Of those 172 buildings only 31 have had the assessment, which can cost up to $25,000 per building.

Including the five NPBHS buildings, 13 of the 31 have been confirmed as earthquake-prone and will need strengthening or demolition.

The other buildings deemed to be earthquake-prone are Quin Law and other offices, Education House, St Andrew's Church in Inglewood, Westown School block A, a two storey office on Devon St East, Sacred Heart College block A, New Plymouth Girls' High School home economics block, and the Colliers Building.

Kim Shannon, head of the Ministry of Education's infrastructure service, said work at Westown School had been completed, while the home economics block at NPGHS had been "determined as a surplus teaching space" and would be removed.

Any old boy interested in the decision about Carrington House can contact Mr McMenamin via the school office or on email at headmaster@npbhs.school.nz

- Taranaki Daily News

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