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Central Library building to display earthquake-prone building notice

Wednesday December 12 2018

Palmerston North City Council has accepted detailed seismic assessment results for the Central Library building under new legislation which came into effect in July 2017.

This has identified the library building as an earthquake-prone building, with a rating of 20-25% of New Building Standard.

Earthquake-prone building notices will soon be placed at the main entrances of the building, including tenancies. The notices carry the earthquake rating for the building and the date that either strengthening or demolition work must be completed. Council has 7.5 to 15 years to complete remedial works.

The classification does not mean the building is deemed dangerous under the Building Act, or has to be closed.

Council chief executive Heather Shotter says while the building is now considered earthquake-prone, like many public buildings throughout the country, it will remain open to maintain continuity of services.

“Our library is the most popular Council service we offer. Based on the current legislation the Council has seven-and-a-half years to consider its future options for the building. In the meantime we are focused on ensuring continuation of the library’s important services.”

Council is to strengthen non-structural elements like ductwork, lights and ceilings, install structural monitoring equipment, limit attendance at library events to 150 people, and increase the frequency of evacuation drills to assist with rapid evacuation of the building in an emergency.

As previously planned, staff located on the third floor of the building will be relocated, which will ease demand on exit routes.

“We have briefed staff, tenants, and neighbouring property owners on implications of the earthquake-prone building notices and what they mean,” Ms Shotter says.

“Nothing has changed with the existing structural integrity of the building. After recent earthquakes there has been no obvious settlement or movement observed. The building has a code of compliance certificate, a current building warrant of fitness, and geotechnical assessments show it sits on good ground, consisting of dense gravels overlying bedrock with a low risk of liquefaction.”

Ms Shotter says meeting the new legislative requirements is by no means unique to Palmerston North, and Council has the benefit of learning from the experiences of other cities like Wellington and Christchurch.

“Geotechnical assessments show the building is situated on solid ground which gives the building a solid foundation, and its structure is fundamentally sound.”

The new earthquake legislation affects all commercial building owners in the city, especially those identified in priority routes under the legislation, who have until 31 December 2019 to undertake seismic assessments.

Seismic assessments are being carried out on other Council buildings and it is expected these will be completed within this timeframe.

Photo shows exterior of Central Library building from the Square.

Council has seven-and-a-half years to consider its future options for the Central Library building.

Long-term options for the library building include strengthening, partial demolition, demolition and rebuild, or rebuilding on another site.

These options will be considered as part of the Council’s Civic and Cultural Masterplanning process, currently underway. Ms Shotter says the Central Library is expected to perform a key ‘anchor’ role in attracting visitors to this revitalised part of the city.

“Services such as libraries are constantly changing and this is a good opportunity to develop an innovative new library blueprint and future-proof these services for generations to come,” Ms Shotter says. An early priority will be to undertake a spatial-needs analysis for the Central Library’s services.