Earthquake prone buildings – have your say on the proposed changes

New proposals on earthquake-prone buildings are up for public consultation, with submissions due by 8th March, 2013. The Department of Building and Housing have created a short video to throw some light on the issues raised by the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. The current earthquake-prone buildings system is described, along with the proposed changes and the reasons for them.

Wellingtonians are invited to a briefing tomorrow to discuss the proposed changes. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, along with Wellington City Council, have organised the February 5 meeting in the Michael Fowler Centre.

The changes would mean that:

  • All commercial and multi-storey buildings must have a seismic capacity assessment within five years.
  • Owners of buildings assessed as earthquake-prone would then have up to 10 years to strengthen or demolish them.

The changes imply greater central government control over seismic issues, standards and assessments, than currently.

The vast majority of residential buildings are exempt from the earthquake-prone buildings system and views are sought on the Royal Commission’s recommendation to allow local authorities the power, on consultation with their communities, to enforce policies that would require certain hazardous elements on residential buildings to be dealt with in a specified time. Some elements of residential buildings, like unreinforced masonry chimneys, pose serious hazards in earthquakes. The Commission contends that local authorities should have power to manage this risk, in the context of their region’s seismic profile and the nature of their housing stock .

Make an online submission at dbh.govt.nz, where you can view the consultation document and explanatory video.

Check out The Royal Commission’s report covering earthquake-prone building policy http://canterbury.royalcommission.govt.nz/Final-Report—Part-Two (Volume 4). This was released on 7 December 2012. Note there are some key points of difference in the Royal Commission recommendations, compared with the MBIE review:

  • Residential buildings – individual local authorities to be able to require strengthening of hazardous elements in residential buildings (most residential buildings are not currently covered by the earthquake-prone building system).
  • Unreinforced masonry buildings – faster timeframes for assessment (within two years) and strengthening (within seven years). Higher strengthening levels (to 50 per cent of new building requirements) for certain parts of unreinforced masonry buildings (chimneys, parapets, ornaments and external walls).
  • Local authority powers – giving local authorities the option of requiring strengthening to be done faster and/or to higher levels than those set by central government, after consulting with communities.

Wellington public meeting, February 5, 7pm, the Michael Fowler Centre. 

Public consultation on the Government’s proposed changes closes on March 8, 2013.

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