Call to strengthen Nelson's heritage buildings

Last updated 13:00 23/11/2012

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About 50 members of the public including architects and commercial building owners attended a meeting in Nelson last night on the options and challenges of earthquake strengthening heritage buildings.

The meeting, hosted by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, featured structural engineer Win Clark, who presented a slideshow of images of the damage to strengthened and unstrengthened heritage buildings in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

He said in response to a question from the floor about where the threshold was for restoring or pulling down older buildings, that owners needed to start immediately on a plan for assessing that.

"You need to start now on a programme that will reveal what you can afford.

"You have to get good advice on a whole range of areas so you can make decisions based on sound knowledge," Mr Clark said.

He said such a process would help owners understand the capability of their building.

Mr Clark showed examples of the effects of the Christchurch earthquake on older, masonry buildings and how those which had been strengthened escaped worse damage.

"Where a building had been maintained and strengthened, it was sufficient to support the building. It proved that strengthening does work."

Mr Clark explained the need for precise engineering to avoid over-compensating which could also lead to "catastrophic failure" of a building.

"That's the engineer's dilemma," he said.

Mr Clark, who is also executive officer of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, said potential amendments to the Building Act arising from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch earthquakes could affect everyone who owns or occupies a heritage building.

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- The Nelson Mail

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