Archive | Construction

Homestar v4 rating launched

Green Building Council chief executive Andrew Eagles thanked the construction industry last night for an extremely robust response when the council sought feedback on its proposed upgrade of the Homestar standard.

The outcome, he said, was a far better version that would make it easier to lift & verify the performance of new homes.

One important outcome is that it will be more readily available to large subdivision builders, enabling them to provide high volume of better homes at speed.

In Homestar version 4, the R values for energy rating are set out, doing away with modelling, and a one-page checklist can be used.

The Green Building Council introduced the original Homestar – an independent rating tool that certifies the health, efficiency & sustainability of homes – in 2010. After wide industry consultation, version 4 was re-engineered to align with the needs of volume builders, providing for volume certification, with more practical evidence requirements, and a removal of the requirement for slab edge insulation in Auckland, Coromandel or Northland.

Mr Eagles said: “Where Homestar v4 is applied to a new build, New Zealanders individually & collectively benefit. Over the course of 5 years, a 6 Homestar-rated household will save $5,000, an 8-star $10,000, carbon emissions will be 1900kg lower for 6-star and 6000kg lower for 8-star.”

Any questions about the need for improvement can quickly be negated. Mr Eagles said New Zealand’s building code as it concerned health & energy efficiency was the worst in the OECD. The 40% of homes that were damp & mouldy were a permanent cause of respiratory problems.

“We know our R values [for heat loss] are 2-3 times worse than other countries’,” he said.

From a slow start, the Homestar programme has started to take off and a market was being created for these tools, indicating better performance: “We know if every home was built to a 6-star rating, New Zealand would benefit to the tune of $350 million after 5 years and $150 million/year after that.”

Link: Green Building Council Homestar

Attribution: Green Building Council launch & release.

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New statistics show 97% of consents result in home

Experimental figures Statistics NZ released today show 97% of new dwelling consents lead to a completed home.

Statistics NZ has been upgrading the regular statistics it provides, both within tables and through sets of information & summaries, but this piece of the puzzle was missing through a period when politicians & lobbyists were busily proclaiming trends, causes & proposed solutions anyway.

The Government organisation produces monthly building consent figures, quarterly estimates of building work undertaken, and quarterly estimates of how many homes there are in New Zealand. The missing element was just how many consents are completed, when they are completed and where in New Zealand they are.

To answer this, Statistics NZ produced some new experimental statistics. The test figures show that, while almost all building consents result in homes over time, “it can take almost a year from the time a consent is issued before the house-warming starts”.

Statistics NZ released experimental dwelling estimates yesterday on the Stats NZ innovation website. These include initial estimates of how many homes have been completed in the country’s 67 territorial authority areas and what the supply of housing is in each location.

Statistics NZ accommodation and construction indicators manager Melissa McKenzie said the estimates suggested that, at a national level:

  • About 97% of dwelling consents lead to a home being finished, though it dropped to about 93% during the 2008 global financial crisis
  • It currently takes about 10 months for a new home to be built after a dwelling consent is issued. The lag was about 6 months in 1998, and 12 months in 2008
  • About 28,000 new dwellings were completed in the year ended March 2017. Just under 31,000 dwellings were consented during the same period
  • About 1.84 million private dwellings were available in New Zealand at March 2017, comparable to the official dwelling & household estimates
  • Dwelling & household estimates to be released today provide an estimate for the June 2017 quarter using official methodology.

Ms McKenzie said: “While consents show an intention to build and are a good indicator of construction, we want to know how many are actually being built across New Zealand. At this stage, the new estimates are simply a test. Stats NZ is seeking feedback to see if people find the figures useful and how they could be improved.”

Stats NZ innovation website

Attribution: Statistics NZ release.

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Home consents resume upward trend, standalone share falls

Consents for new homes resumed their upward trend in May after a dip in April, but the rise still looks tentative against the upward lines in immigration & overall population growth.

Statistics NZ reports population growth with a calendar that rises continuously, but its monthly building consent figures appear only at the end of the following month.

The population has risen in the last 12 months from an estimated 4.69 million (97,300 total growth in the 12 months to June 2016, then another 106,000) to 4.796 million now.

At an average 2.7 residents/household, those population increases would have required housing increases of 36,000 homes built in the year to June 2016, and 39,300 built in the last 12 months (ignoring demolition or falling into disuse).

Consents for new homes fall well short of those requirements for actual construction, which means the housing “crisis” which has afflicted New Zealand is either not really a crisis, or politicians, bankers & builders don’t want to supply the solutions that would shrink the ever-widening gap.

Labour has proposed building 10,000 homes/year to start closing the gap. National has used housing accords with local councils to try to lift consent figures while at the same reducing construction conditions for those more quickly consented builds (but which have been slow to get underway) – as the country’s leaky building saga constantly warns that building standards need to rise, not fall.

For any politician to earn my vote, I would expect not just encouraging words but a plan to be laid out well before the 23 September election for fairly precise increases in home construction in various parts of the country, accompanied by financing plans which would require banking sector support for cheaper homes and government programmes to help finance cheaper homes.

And more: I would expect plans for job growth accompanying the construction of new homes – not just in new shops but a wider range of employment that would begin the task of dismantling the Auckland of one-way traffic congestion, and the New Zealand centred purely on Auckland.

Migration is an obvious issue in the housing picture. The net inflow has been boosted by the number of Kiwis returning from Australia, and that seems unlikely to be reversed in the near future as Australia’s federal government continues to stumble and job growth across the Tasman remains illusory.

The net inflow of migrants for the 12 months to May fell just short of 72,000, requiring 26,650 new homes to be built at that 2.7 residents/household average.

Building consents for new homes over those 12 months totalled 30,645, up 8% on the previous year’s 28,387, leaving 4000 consents (and mostly not yet built homes) for internal population growth of 34,000.

It’s plain that these numbers don’t stack up, which means prices will continue to rise while no political solution is evident. Added to that picture, the state of Australia’s major banks has brought warnings to tighten from international banking actors such as the International Monetary Fund, and tightening in Australia means tightening in New Zealand.

In Auckland, the one bright spot in this gloomy economic & financial morass is that the new unitary plan allows intensification over a wide spread of suburbia. Many landowners are now taking sections (or sections with an old house which most likely would be demolished) to market with consent – or ability under the plan – to build perhaps 4 units where one house previously stood.

There is a fear that this will change neighbourhoods – and it will, but not automatically badly. I write this article from a hotel room in Denver, Colorado (on a family visit, off out into the boiling sun today), and beside this pocket of city-fringe hotels there is a steady rise in both apartment living and in replacement of old homes with houses on smaller sections and with terraces & townhouses.

This city, too, believes it has a housing crisis and, like Auckland, is thinking about solutions but doing too little. It’s a city that has apartments right in the centre and many lowrise apartment blocks spread through business areas. New developments in the inner fringes are mostly lowrise – up to 6 storeys (think Britomart’s old buildings to gauge the human scale these changes are being made at). Home sizes? I’m not sure yet.

In Denver, much of the new has charm. New Zealand, and Auckland in particular, has operated on the “build to the max” mantra for decades, and charm is the first thing tossed out the window.

Building to the max (which means pricing to the max) generally rules out Auckland being a charming if over-populated city, but Auckland can develop apace, with more thought about the consequences, and become a pleasant but more populated city.

The consent picture

Standalone homes’ share of the new residential market has been falling gradually, and depending on applications for lumpy intensive construction projects for apartments, retirement villages & suburban townhouses.

In May, standalones represented 73% of the month’s consents, up from 70.6% in April but down from 77.6% in May last year. Over a year, the standalone share fell from 72.1% in the 12 months to May 2016, to 69.4% in the latest 12 months.

The national consent numbers for May and the year to May, compared to May last year, and the latest 12 months compared to the previous 12 months:

Total consents for new homes: 2794 (up 10.9% from 2520), 30,645 (up 8% from 28,387)
Total values for new homes: $1.229 billion (up 14.1% from $1.078 billion); $12.81 billion (up 12% from $11.439 billion)
Standalone homes: 2039 (up 4.2% from 1956); 21,262 (up 3.9% from 20,467)
Apartments: 123 (up 6% from 116); 2881 (up 37.5% from 2095)
Retirement village units: 137 (up 13.2% from 121); 1718 (down 17.2% from 2076)
Suburban townhouses & flats: 495 (up 51.4% from 327); 4784 (up 27.6% from 3749)
Standalone share of consents: 73% for the month (70.6%, 77.6%); 69.4% (72.1%).

Auckland residential consents up 20.9% for month

Consents for new homes in the Auckland region rose 20.9% this May compared to last May, and by 11.1% for the year. Consents for the month rose in 9 wards and fell 4 eastern & southern wards.

Auckland residential consents, month & year compared to that month last year and the previous 12 months:

Region: 885 (732), 10,379 (9434)
Rodney: 159 (76), 965 (945)
Albany: 208 (167), 2549 (2322)
North Shore: 42 (15), 521 (484)
Waitakere:  53 (44), 626 (515)
Waitemata & Gulf: 9 (20), 1093 (852)
Whau: 13 (17), 339 (195)
Albert-Eden-Roskill: 94 (37), 731 (467)
Orakei: 5 (8), 280 (356)
Maungakiekie-Tamaki: 83 (32), 468 (480)
Howick: 33 (84), 401 (658)
Manukau: 33 (30), 397 (498)
Manurewa-Papakura: 65 (106), 1065 (900)
Franklin: 88 (96), 944 (762)

Overall figures

Consents for all new residential construction, including additions & alterations at $1.9 billion, were up 12% for the year to $12.81 billion ($11.439 billion). For the month, residential consents were up 14.1% to $1.229 billion ($1.078 billion).

Across all sectors, consents for the May year were $10 billion up on the level in the May 2012 year at $19.726 billion, and up just under $2 billion (10.9%) on the total for the May 2016 year. Consents in May were up 17.4% ($520 million) to $1.871 billion.

Attribution: Statistics NZ tables.

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QV says home-building costs up average 3.5% in year

Quotable Value Ltd said today the average cost of building a new home in New Zealand’s 4 largest cities had risen on average by 3.5% in the year to May, and by 25.5% since the previous price peak of 2007.

The assessment is by QVcostbuilder, an arm of state-owned enterprise Quotable Value Ltd, which provides the latest construction cost data to the property & construction industries through an online subscription web platform tool.

It also shows the average cost of building a standard 140m², 3-bedroom, one-bathroom home rose most in Wellington, up 2.43% over 12 months to an average $258,000. Auckland rose 2.32% to $272,000, Dunedin rose 2.12% to $254,000 and Christchurch rose 1.92% to $277,375.

QV national spokesperson Andrea Rush said building costs rose most in Wellington as its house price index jumped more than 20%.

She said costs for larger houses (between 200-600m²) increased by a higher percentage – 3.39% over the year, 38.6% since 2007.

The averages exclude the cost of land, demolition of existing structures, additional costs due to building code changes, structural requirements, external works, utilities connections, balconies & covered ways, professional & council fees & gst.

Attribution: QV release.

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Sistema’s industrial building wins top property award

The Property Council’s top award was won on Friday night by a manufacturing & warehouse facility near Auckland Airport.

The Rider Levett Bucknall supreme award went to Sistema Plastics Ltd’s 52,000m² facility opened last year on Oruarangi Rd, Ihumatao, in Nakhle Group’s 21ha Auckland International Business Park in the Mangere Gateway business zone near the airport.

Sistema founder & managing director Brendan Lindsay sold his company to US consumer goods company Newell Brands Inc in December for $NZ660 million and has just retired. He only sold on condition that Newell agree to keep manufacturing in New Zealand for the next 20 years and, in the sale process, Newell signed a long-term lease on the building.

Sistema sells a range of plastic storage containers in over 90 countries and brought its warehousing, manufacturing & distribution operations, and its international headquarters, under one roof. The building has 3500m2 of office space & ancillary rooms on 2 floors and 17,000m2 of yard & parking around it.

Awards chief judge Andy Evans said the building’s design was a standout for the attention given to all aspects of work flow, future flexibility, divisibility & expansion: “The project is world class and demonstrated a high level of consultation & collaboration between the design teams, builder & occupier.

“I am also delighted to see the supreme award go to an industrial development that is pushing the boundaries in design & functionality, delivering the most significant industrial building in New Zealand. This building displays the innovation & attitude that has made Sistema Plastics a world leader.”

The category awards (with sponsor in brackets):

Multi-unit residential (Arrow International):
Best in category: Chambers & Station (Auckland)
Excellence: The Dylan Apartments (Auckland)
Merit: 55 Symonds Street (Auckland), Boulcott Conference Suites & Apartments (Wellington)

Education (GIB):
Best in category: Samuel Marsden Collegiate School – Te Manawa o te Kura (Wellington)
Excellence: AUT Building MH (Auckland), Te Ara o Mauao, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology (Tauranga)
Merit: Haeata Community Campus (Christchurch), Rolleston College (Christchurch), St Andrews College Centennial Chapel (Christchurch), Tarawera High School (Kawerau)

Tourism & leisure (Holmes Consulting Group):
Best in category: Adina Hotel (Auckland)
Excellence: Vector Wero Whitewater Park (Auckland)

Retail (RCG):
Merit: Whangaparaoa retail centre (Auckland)

Industrial (Yardi):
Best in category: Sistema manufacturing facility (Auckland)
Excellence: Big Chill supersite (Auckland), Coca Cola Amatil (Auckland)
Merit: Emerson’s Brewery & Taproom (Dunedin), Red Stag Timber sawmill (Rotorua), The Warehouse Ltd South Island distribution centre (Christchurch)

Civic & arts (Warren & Mahoney):
Best in category: Len Lye Centre & Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (New Plymouth)
Excellence: ASB Waterfront Theatre (Auckland)
Merit: Manu Tukutuku – Randwick Park Pavilion (Auckland), Redcliffs Library (Christchurch)

Health & medical (Fagerhult NZ):
Best in category: Manaaki by Mercy (Dunedin)
Excellence: Burwood Hospital redevelopment (Christchurch)
Merit: St John Christchurch ambulance hub (Christchurch)

Heritage & adaptive reuses (Hawkins):
Best in category: Australis Nathan Buildings (Auckland)
Excellence: Chambers & Station (Auckland), Mason Bros (Auckland)
Merit: Good Union (Cambridge), St Kevin’s Arcade (Auckland), The Christchurch Club (Christchurch)

Urban land developments (Natural Habitats):
Merit: Daventry Street & Torea Place (Auckland)

Commercial office (RCP):
Best in category: PwC Centre (Christchurch)
Excellence: 133 Molesworth St (Wellington)
Merit: Australis Nathan Buildings (Auckland), Mason Bros (Auckland)

Green building (Resene):
Best in category: ASB Waterfront Theatre (Auckland)
Excellence: New Shoots Children’s Centre & Source Café, Pakuranga (Auckland)
Merit: 133 Molesworth St (Wellington)

Property Council members’ laureate: John Dunn

Attribution: Property Council release, Sistema.

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Statistics show both home & non-residential construction well on track

The third consecutive strong quarter lifted home construction by 23% in the year to March, returning to the 22%-plus growth path begun in 2012, which ran through to early 2015. In the year to March 2016, that growth path remained positive but dipped to 11.7%.

Non-residential construction, on the other hand, has faltered more than it’s surged ahead over the last 5 years. However, the usual first-quarter dip at the start of 2017 also followed 3 strong quarters and didn’t fall anywhere near the level in the March 2016 quarter. The value of 3 months’ work at the start of 2017 was equal to about 4 months’ work in 2012.

The total value of all construction over the March quarter, $4.935 billion, was up 10.9% on the March 2016 quarter and took building work put in place over the year to March to $20.357 billion, up 18.7% ($3.2 billion on the previous year).

In Auckland, the value of all building work in the March quarter was up 12.5% over the March 2016 quarter at $1.761 billion ($1.565 billion). Between those 2 March quarters, construction jumped by between 32-39%/quarter, lifting building work to a quarterly range of $1.83-1.985 billion.

Construction in the region crossed the $1 billion/quarter line in the September 2013 quarter.

  • This is a truncated version of my usual building work story and indicates a more positive picture than Statistics NZ’s assessment via trend & seasonally adjusted figures. I’ll try to return to it over the next couple of days. In the meantime, the Statistics NZ graph comparing consents & work completed gives a helpful perspective of construction direction through to the end of 2016.

Attribution: Statistics NZ tables & releases.

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Consents down in short month but annual figure stays above 30,000

Building consents for new homes dropped by 672 from March to 2106 in April, and dropped by 255 compared to April last year, Statistics NZ said today.

Importantly for the Government, the annual rate of consents for new homes stayed above 30,000 – 30,371 for the latest 12 months, down from 30,626 for the year to March, up from 30,162 for the year to February.

In Auckland, the 726 consents for the month were ahead of 699 in April last year but well down from the 800 in February and 942 in March, and the 10,226 for the year were up on the 10,045 to February, 10,199 to March and up 9.3% on the 9353 for the year to April 2016.

Statistics NZ noted that Easter’s occurrence in April would have reduced building consents issued for the month. In addition, when Anzac Day fell on a Tuesday it resulted in another 4-day weekend for many.

You can only use that reasoning so far, though. The value of consents for new homes nationally in March last year (including an Easter break) was $1.021 billion, falling to $948 million in the Easter-less April. The value this March was $1.199 billion, falling to $921 million.

The value of consents for all construction fell from $2.077 billion in March to $1.351 billion in April (last year, $1.505 billion down to $1.430 billion), so one April against the other the fall was 5.5%. For the April year, the value of all construction was up 10.6% to $19.45 billion ($17.589 billion in 2016).

Non-residential consents for the month were down 10.5% to $411 million ($459 million), but for the year were up 9.7% to $6.4 billion ($5.85 billion). Floor area was down 28.8% for the month to 204,000m² (286,000m²), and was down 17% for the year to 2.64 million m² (3.19 million m²).

Home consents by sector, for month & year, previous period in brackets:

Houses: 1487 (1742), (1815), 21,179 (20,098), up 5.4% for the year
Apartments: 228 (25), 2874 (2094), up 37.2%
Retirement village units: 46 (259), 1702 (2139), down 20.4%
Townhouses, flat & units: 345 (335), 4616 (3707), up 24.5%

Around Auckland by ward, this April & last, and the April 2017 year & previous 12 months:

Region: 726 (699), 10,226 (9353)
Rodney: 81 (89), 882 (948)
Albany: 125 (135), 2508 (2316)
North Shore: 25 (17), 494 (528)
Waitakere: 25 (60), 617 (506)
Waitemata & Gulf: 166 (23), 1104 (857)
Whau: 51 (18), 343 (192)
Albert-Eden-Roskill: 25 (21), 674 (474)
Orakei: 4 (27), 283 (370)
Maungakiekie-Tamaki: 31 (26), 417 (463)
Howick: 28 (71), 452 (601)
Manukau: 32 (32), 394 (504)
Manurewa-Papakura: 73 (75), 1106 (890)
Franklin: 60 (105), 952 (704).

Attribution: Statistics NZ tables & release.

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Updated: Non-residential spurt lifts building consents over $2 million for month

Published 28 April 2017, updated 30 April 2017 with figures around Auckland region:
A sharp jump in non-residential projects in March lifted building consents over $2 billion/month for the first time.

The total for all construction was $2.077 billion ($1.505 billion in March 2016). The total for the year was $19.529 billion ($17.357 billion) – a $2.17 billion rise.

Non-residential consents jumped 82% from $460 million last March to $837 million this March. The floor area consented rose 41%, from 230,000m² to 325,000m².

These consents tend to be lumpy, making comparisons in a non-residential sector between one month & another meaningless. The big tickets in non-residential for this March were office (which includes public transport) $191 million, hotels $167 million, hospitals, nursing homes & health $104 million, shops, restaurants & bars $102 million.

Residential consents for March were up 17.4% compared to last March, and up 14.9% for the year. Consents for new homes totalled 2779 this March (2315 a year earlier), and 30,626 for the year (27,789).

Total residential consents for the month were worth $1.199 billion ($1.021 billion a year earlier), and for the year $12.865 billion ($11.038 billion for the previous 12 months).

Home consents by sector, for month & year, previous period in brackets:

Houses: 1923 (1815), 21,434 (19,721), up 8.7% for the year
Apartments: 252 (32), 2671 (2536), up 5.3%
Retirement village units: 197 (134), 1915 (1929), down 0.7%
Townhouses, flat & units: 407 (334), 4606 (3603), up 27.8%

Around Auckland by ward, this March & last, and the March 2017 year & previous 12 months:

Region: 942 (788), 10,199 (9566)
Rodney: 122 (100), 890 (912)
Albany: 227 (178), 2518 (2332)
North Shore: 53 (75), 486 (533)
Waitakere: 55 (51), 652 (483)
Waitemata & Gulf: 116 (14), 961 (1239)
Whau: 40 (17), 310 (187)
Albert-Eden-Roskill: 37 (40), 670 (478)
Orakei: 12 (9), 306 (386)
Maungakiekie-Tamaki: 26 (22), 412 (462)
Howick: 24 (49), 495 (559)
Manukau: 38 (48), 394 (486)
Manurewa-Papakura: 114 (93), 1108 (876)
Franklin: 78 (92), 997 (633)

Attribution: Statistics NZ tables & release.

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Building institute launches 2 industry-improving scholarships

The NZIOB (Institute of Building) Charitable Trust has launched 2 $10,000 scholarships for projects that will improve the industry. Entries close on Friday 30 June.

The trust has also decided on its first fundraising event aimed at eventually making grant payments from earnings rather than capital.

Trust chair Gina Jones said yesterday the institute had established the scholarships to recognise, encourage & financially support recipients from a trade, technical or professional role to pursue a project linked to building through research, practice or professional development.

“We have a mission to encourage aspirational thinking that lifts the construction industry’s performance and we are particularly interested in applications from members who have a project that will introduce improvements to the industry.

“We’re looking for applicants with a project that has the potential to advance some aspect of design, construction or management of buildings in New Zealand, and thereby enhance the quality of our built environment.”

The successful recipients will be chosen by a panel comprising 3 past presidents of the institute. Winners will be announced at the institute’s awards night on Friday 25 August in Auckland.

Ms Jones said the trust’s first fundraising event would be a lunch with former All Black captain – and builder – Sean Fitzpatrick at Mac’s Brewbar in Wellington on 30 June, the day before the British & Irish Lions play the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium.

NZIOB Charitable Trust
Scholarship details

Attribution: Institute release.

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Statistics House quake damage prompts standards review

Building & Construction Minister Nick Smith said on Friday design standards & building laws would be reviewed in response to an investigation into structural damage to Statistics House in Wellington in the Kaikoura earthquake on 14 November.

He released an independent panel’s findings into the performance of the building during the quake, which focused on its design & construction and the land influences on it.

The panel found a combination of 4 factors contributed to the partial failure of lower floor segments.

2 of the factors – the flexible frames & style of floor construction – combined with significant shaking for up to 120 seconds, and localised amplification of the shaking, to compromise the support of the lower precast concrete floor units.

The panel also noted that the combination of factors that led to the partial collapse of floor units in Statistics House wasn’t anticipated by the design standards in place when it was built in 2005.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, the Institution of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) & the institution’s technical societies have produced information for owners & building professionals responsible for assessing & designing multi-storey concrete moment-resisting frame buildings with precast concrete floor systems that may be vulnerable to loss of floor support during an earthquake.

Performance “unacceptable”

Dr Smith said: “The performance of Statistics House in the Kaikoura earthquake was unacceptable and could have caused fatalities. This quake was large & unusually long, but a modern building like Statistics House should not have had life-threatening structural damage. The building was designed to the industry practice of the time, but this did not fully account for the effects of beam elongation during an earthquake, an issue that was deficient in the concrete structures standard at the time of the design.

“The design flaw is quite specific to highly ductile framed concrete buildings with precast floor slabs, and particularly those with multi-bay frames. We need to follow up on similarly designed buildings through councils & engineering companies so that where it is a problem, it can be rectified. This has already been done in respect of Wellington as a consequence of the preliminary findings in Statistics House, but now needs to be followed up elsewhere.

“We also need to amend the concrete structures standard to ensure newly designed buildings are adequately designed to cope with beam elongation during long-duration earthquakes. This will be done this year.

“A compounding factor was geological basin effects that are not well understood but which have also been observed in other earthquakes internationally. This is not to do with reclaimed land but the amplification of ground shaking in a basin. This phenomenon is similar to the way sea waves respond to a wall in an enclosed bay. This is an area of seismic science that needs further research, particularly in respect of Wellington, and to be considered as part of a review of the earthquake actions standard.

Building law issue

“There is a building law issue that arises from this report on which I have asked officials to report. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment has limited powers to follow up on design deficiencies like those identified in this report, beyond those specifically provided for following civil emergencies. This means the ministry cannot require building owners to follow up on these sorts of potentially serious technical problems. I have asked the ministry to report on whether additional powers are needed in the Building Act.”

Dr Smith said New Zealand was at the cutting edge of international seismic design standards, but hadn’t yet solved all of the potential ways a building can fail: “Most buildings in Wellington performed well despite the ferocity of the Kaikoura earthquake. We need to take the opportunity following such earthquakes to learn as much as we can and to further strengthen our standards & systems to improve building safety for the future.

“These detailed issues over the performance of modern buildings are important for improving design standards, but they should not divert attention away from the far more significant risk to life of older buildings. The Kaikoura earthquake was sufficiently distant from Wellington that the city did not get the dangerous high frequency shaking that poses the greatest risk to life.

“The largest safety gains for Wellington are to be made in the initiatives requiring unreinforced masonry facades & parapets to be tied back over the next year, and all earthquake-prone buildings under 34% of Building Code to be upgraded under the new law coming into effect on 1 July.”

Statistics House investigation
Framed buildings with precast concrete floor systems

Attribution: Ministry website & ministerial release.

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