02 May 2017

Media release: Canterbury quake interval a sobering reminder for Wellington

IPENZ Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene says this Thursday, 177 days after the Kaikoura earthquake, is a sobering reminder of the seismic risk posed by earthquake-prone buildings.

"Christchurch's devastating 22 February 2011 aftershock came 177 days after the first Canterbury earthquake.

"Because the Kaikoura earthquake on 14 November most affected mid-height buildings, it's been easy for Wellingtonians to feel less concerned about shorter, stiffer earthquake-prone buildings.

"But Thursday, 177 days on from Kaikoura, forcibly reminds us of the lives lost when facades collapsed in the 22 February 2011 aftershock.  Thirty-nine people were killed and more than 100 people injured as a result of masonry falling onto footpaths and roads.

"Engineers are extremely supportive of the Government's move to compel building owners to secure facades, which will save lives in a large earthquake centred closer to Wellington."

More than 500 earthquake engineers and scientists met in Wellington last week for the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering(NZSEE)'s annual technical conference.

NZSEE President Peter Smith says engineers are learning lessons from how buildings performed in the complex Kaikoura earthquake.

"When we design a building, we've always focused on protecting lives first and foremost. But now, we're also asking whether buildings need to be more resilient, so that they experience less damage and can be more quickly reoccupied after an earthquake.

"There's a trade off that developers and building owners need to consider, between investing in resilience and suffering economic loss if a building can't be used for some time after an earthquake."

Structural Engineering Society (SESOC) spokesperson Paul Campbell says engineers are looking forward to new earthquake-prone buildings legislation that will come into force on 1 July.

"One of the things this legislation does is introduce more prescriptive guidelines for seismic assessments of buildings, which will make assessments more consistent.

"While there may be differences of opinion between engineers, they need to be in the same ballpark. The new guidelines will help make sure building owners can compare apples with apples."