Strengthen them or knock them down

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2013

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Government proposals to force owners of earthquake-prone buildings to strengthen them or knock them down are backed by the Christchurch City Council.

In a submission on the Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) proposals, the council says it supports the Government's plans to make local authorities carry out seismic capacity assessments of all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings in their district within five years.

It says that once the assessments have been completed, it is reasonable to expect the owners of buildings identified as being quake-prone to submit plans for strengthening or demolishing them.

"It will come as no surprise to building owners that their buildings do not meet current standards and are likely to collapse in a moderate earthquake," the council says in its submission. "Building owners should be able to provide a provisional plan to strengthen or demolish a building within 12 months of being notified. They will then have a further period of up to 10 years to refine their plans and undertake the work."

The council is pushing for unreinforced masonry buildings to be assessed in an even shorter time frame as they pose the greatest risk. It wants the power to require faster action on buildings of strategic importance, such as schools, police stations and hospitals. Government proposals that would mean local authorities have to enter information on the seismic capacity of buildings into a public register are also backed by the council.

"We envisage a system similar to the building warrant of fitness system whereby building owners are legislatively required to display, in a public part of the building, information related to the seismic capacity of the building, along with information on the certification of building systems," its submission says.

At a planning committee meeting yesterday, council resource consents and policy approvals unit manager Steve McCarthy said implementing the proposals would come at a cost.

Carrying out the seismic strength assessments was likely to cost the council about $250,000 a year for the first five years and about $150,000 a year for the following 10 years.

If the strengthening target remained at more than one-third of the new building standard, the estimated cost in Christchurch for strengthening 1100 buildings would be $130 million.

Cr Aaron Keown said he supported the proposed changes but was concerned it could be years before the Government developed a rating system for buildings.

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He said the council should push ahead with its own star rating system in the interim.

The committee voted to get staff to brief the full council on the building code standards as they relate to seismic capacity and the safety of buildings with a view to introducing its own rating system.

A public meeting to discuss the Government's proposed changes will be held on Tuesday at the Horticultural Society Centre from 6pm to 8pm. Council and MBIE representatives will attend.

- The Press

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