What does it mean when a building is declared to be earthquake prone?
The recent Kaikoura earthquake on 14 November 2016 is a timely reminder of the importance of the earthquake-prone building provisions in the Building Act 2004 that set minimum requirements for the strength of buildings.
Six years have passed since the Canterbury earthquakes and the Government is in the final stages of implementing the new requirements for earthquake-prone buildings.
The amendments in the Building (Earthquake-Prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016, as well as the accompanying regulations, rules and guidance material, are expected to come into force mid 2017.
Jonathan Kaye, Barrister and Solicitor, co-author of Building Law in New Zealand, considers the changes to the requirements for earthquake-prone buildings in light of the current quakes.
“Under the new regulations, buildings will be profiled as ‘potentially earthquake-prone’ based on types of construction, specific attributes such as unreinforced masonry, buildings on corner sites, streetscape details and so on. These profile categories for buildings are currently being consulted on by MBIE.
“Once a building has been profiled as potentially earthquake prone by a territorial authority the owner will have 12 months to produce an engineering assessment (that must be carried out in accordance with requirements set by MBIE) that shows whether the building is earthquake prone or not. If the owner does not provide an engineering assessment the building will be deemed to be earthquake-prone.”
There is also a critical difference to note between building judged to be earthquake-damaged versus earthquake-prone, according to Jonathan.
“Earthquake-prone buildings are buildings that have had their capacity assessed as around one third or less the strength of a new building when subject to a moderate earthquake. Earthquake damaged buildings are buildings that have suffered damage in an earthquake. When the damage includes structural components it is unlikely the residual capacity of the building can be assessed.
“This makes it difficult to assess whether an earthquake damaged building is earthquake prone under the Act because engineers find it very difficult to assess the capacity of a structural component that has already been damaged. If the structural component cannot be repaired or replaced the future of the building will be in doubt.”
Buildings in Wellington serve as reminders
The recent performance of a number of buildings in the Wellington region following the November earthquakes reminds us of a number of other key questions, according to Jonathan:
- What changes are being made to the way buildings are assessed as earthquake-prone?
- What does it mean when a building is declared to be earthquake-prone?
- How will the changes affect building owners?
- What are the requirements for strengthening an earthquake-prone building?
Come to the conference to find out more
Jonathan will be addressing the changes to earthquake-prone building regulation during the Building and Construction Law Conference on 22 March 2017, organised by Thomson Reuters.
The conference will also address a number of other emerging topics including the amendments to the Construction Contracts Amendments Act, legal challenges from overseas steel and wiring supply, and the interface between the RMA and the Building Act.
For more information visit www.thomsonreuters.co.nz/events