News, Events and Culture

Council-Owned Earthquake Prone Building Update

Wednesday October 24 2012

Earlier this year the Palmerston North City Council released a list of Earthquake Prone Buildings (EQPB). The list comprises mostly Unreinforced Masonry Buildings in the city centre and the buildings listed are below 33 per cent of what is required for new buildings. The Building Act 2004 defines buildings below 33 per cent of code as earthquake-prone and having greater risk of collapse in a moderate earthquake.

The list was put together after an initial assessment carried out by a consulting engineer on behalf of the Council and published in May.

The owners of the buildings on the list need to carry out their own structural integrity assessment or start planning for a strengthening programme. Two owners have provided structural engineering reports showing their buildings comply and have since been removed from the list.

Head of building services, Leigh Sage says the Council is now formulating a list of remaining potential EQPB buildings that require assessment. The list of around 400 buildings is currently being prioritised with high public use and emergency services buildings leading the list. The first assessments are expected to begin before the end of the month and the project is expected to take at least four years.

The list of 109 EQPB buildings included two Council-owned buildings, the Square Edge and the Albert Street Depot, as being below code. The Council's Central Administration Building in the Square was also assessed and while it was found it to be above the 33 per cent level some questions remained. A secondary assessment is now being carried out which includes investigation of soil types under the building.

John Brenkley, parks and property manager, says since the May announcement, more initial assessments have been carried out. Through that process the Crematorium in Kelvin Grove Cemetery, the Keith Street Power Station and the Fitzherbert Grandstand have all been identified as being below 33 per cent of code.

Council is carrying out secondary assessments of all Council-owned buildings on the list, with the most used buildings being assessed first. Reports on the Square Edge, the Crematorium are expected later next month, the Power Station by the end of the year and work is set to begin on the Fitzherbert Grandstand next year.
Policy planner Matthew Mackay says the Council's current EQPB policy is in line with existing Government guidelines. Council currently requires a 15-30 year timeframe for strengthening buildings below 33% of new building code towards a minimum of 67% of code.

However, the policy is pre-Christchurch earthquakes and was due for revision this year. In August, Councillors voted to hold off reviewing the policy until the recommendations from Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission have been taken up by central Government to ensure the revised policy is not superseded.

Meanwhile, the Council runs a Heritage Fund to assist the owners of heritage buildings and to date 12 heritage building owners have received grants to assist with seismic engineering assessments.