Facades and Parapets

The government has issued a new policy today, to require owners of particular buildings to “tie back” at-risk facades and parapets that face onto the street within one year.  The focus is on unreinforced masonry buildings on routes that have high pedestrian and vehicle traffic in four areas which now have a heightened risk of earthquakes as a result of the Kaikorua Earthquakes.  These areas are Lower Hutt, Wellington, Marlborough and Hurunui. Nick Smith, the Building and Construction Minister, said that in these four areas about 300 buildings had been identified as being of concern, of which 250 are in Wellington.  The Minister said that the tieback work is expected to cost about $20,000-$30,000 for each building.

Of course, this work is crucial as in the Christchurch earthquake 40 people died, and another 100 injured, as a result of the collapse of facades and other items on unreinforced masonry buildings.  The collapse of facades and parapets into the street will also cause major impediments for emergency services and for people trying to escape the city.

The New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering recently wrote a briefing for the minister saying that it is particularly concerned about areas such as Riddiford Street and Cuba Street in Wellington, and Jackson Street in Petone, in these times of heightened risk.

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-9-28-58-pmJackson Street, Petone

Crucially, this work will be allowed to be done without a building consent or a resource consent, provided the work is supervised by an engineer.  The Building Act and the Resource Management Act will both be adjusted by an Order in Council, arising from the government’s new powers in the Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery Act, to allow that to happen.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment is to issue guidance and advice for owners in February.  I would note that the lack of a resource consent requirement means that it is possible that the heritage staff at councils, and staff at Heritage New Zealand, will be cut out of their usual role of providing advice to owners on how to achieve the best results for the heritage aspects of buildings.  I would expect that many, if not most of the buildings, especially those in Wellington and Lower Hutt, would be listed heritage buildings or within listed historic areas.

Nick Smith said “I appreciate the cost this new requirement imposes on building owners, which is why the Government has established a $3 million fund that will, with councils, cover up to half the cost of the securing work. I call on building owners to make use of the fund and carry out the necessary work on their building to reduce this risk.”  The new fund is to be administered by Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, so is different from the other recently-announced heritage fund scheme called EQUIP which is being administered by a different ministry, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

For further information see this MBIE release.

Images: Curt Smith and Petone80, both Flikr Creative Commons Licence.

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