School buildings need all-clear
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
Detailed engineering checks on all 2500 school buildings in greater Christchurch are about to ramp up, but will still take 18 months to finish.
About 250 potentially high-risk buildings have already been checked and structural issues have been found in six buildings. They are a library, uniform shop, canteen, and two halls, which have been closed and a caretaker's house, which has been demolished. All were at different schools in Christchurch.
Education Ministry earthquake recovery programme manager Coralanne Child said now that detailed engineering evaluations (DEEs) had been finished on the priority buildings, the programme would ramp up this term to check all school buildings in Christchurch, Waimakariri and Selwyn.
"It will still be around 18 months before we can complete the task."
The ministry has engaged six engineering companies to complete the evaluations, but the companies were also carrying out structural assessments for commercial building owners.
The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority has ordered that all non-residential buildings undergo DEEs to see if they meet 34 per cent of the current building code.
Child said the ministry inspected all of its buildings after significant earthquakes, and the DEEs were more a measure of how the buildings might perform in the future.
It was impossible to know how many more buildings might be singled out because of the DEEs, but given the low number of buildings highlighted so far, the ministry did not expect to see too many more buildings that needed attention, she said.
Where possible, repairs were done immediately, but if significant repairs were needed, the building would remain closed until remediation work could be done.
Southbridge School and Linwood North School have lost the use of their halls after they were evaluated.
Linwood North School principal Sandra Smith said the hall was closed in March after being identified as meeting 30 per cent of the code.
The main structure was considered stable and the issue was with a room connected to the hall.
"It's been a devastating loss for our school," Smith said.
"It's the hub of school life. One day we could use it and the next day we weren't allowed in."
She said she would appreciate some consultation with the ministry about possibilities for interim remediation and strengthening of the hall.
Southbridge School principal Peter Verstappen said the hall was undergoing a second, more detailed evaluation after being identified as an earthquake-prone building by the Selwyn District Council in March.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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