Jellie Park still to be inspected

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 09:33 25/07/2012
The  Christchurch South Library is closed for business but one canny user still found a way to hook into its free wi-fi.
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS: The Christchurch South Library is closed for business but one canny user still found a way to hook into its free wi-fi.

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Jellie Park is among about 400 public buildings still to have detailed engineering inspections.

Shockwaves rippled through Christchurch this week when the city council announced the sudden closure of a library, cafe and service centre that was visited 42,000 times a month.

The near-new Christchurch South Library in Colombo St was shut on Monday after a detailed engineering evaluation (DEE) revealed the building had four critical structural weaknesses and was well under the threshold of 34 per cent of the new building standard (NBS).

The poor state of the 9-year-old building has raised fears other council-owned buildings may also have to be closed or even pulled down because of earthquake damage.

The council owns 1009 non-residential buildings across the city, but by the middle of last month it had completed DEEs on only 150 of them, 20 of which have had to be demolished.

It is evaluating another 387 buildings but has yet to begin work on the remainder.

The council expects to take two years to complete the DEEs but is prioritising the work on the basis of the age and construction of a building and the use to which it is put. High-use buildings such as libraries and leisure centres are being given priority.

DEEs are under way on the Halswell, Redwood, Shirley, Upper Riccarton, Parklands, Spreydon, Opawa and Hoon Hay libraries.

A council spokeswoman said DEES were also being done at the Jellie Park Recreation and Sport Centre and the Queen Elizabeth II Fitness Centre in Parklands.

Library should have performed better

A modern single-storey building like the South Library should have performed better in the quakes, a structural engineering expert says.

Emeritus Professor Athol Carr said questions should be asked over what specifications the building was built to.

"I would have expected it to have performed better," he said.

"If they are now assessing its strength against the current [building code] requirements, which have been raised about 40 per cent more than what they were, then the goalposts may have shifted."

Brendon Bradley, a lecturer in civil engineering at Canterbury University, said the failure of buildings such as the South Library raised questions of whether the conventional approach to design was now acceptable.

"Public reaction following similarly strong earthquakes in the US and Japan in the 1990s and 2000s, as well as those in Christchurch, clearly demonstrates that the seismic performance that current buildings are designed for is socially unacceptable," said Bradley, who suggested that more stringent performance criteria were needed.

No-one from Warren and Mahoney, which designed the library building, was available to comment yesterday, but the library, when it opened in 2003, met all the required building standards.

The council is investigating whether it can make temporary repairs to it.

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- The Press

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