What is an earthquake prone building? An “Earthquake-Prone Building” is a structure that is less than one-third of the current New Building Standard (NBS) for earthquake strength design. The Building and Housing Department of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is currently reviewing practice and policy around earthquake prone buildings. Being “earthquake-prone” doesn’t necessarily mean that your building should not be occupied – but it does mean that you should get a professional engineering assessment as soon as possible, and work out a plan to fix the problems over a reasonable time period.

 Another incentive are assurances being sought from landlords by tenants about the seismic design status of their buildings. Landlords cannot afford to procrastinate and must act decisively to verify the true nature and condition of their buildings with respect to seismic resistance capability in order to secure lease renewals thus retaining value and future revenue.

 Three steps for concerned owners:

1.     Prioritise building assessment

  • you will need to engage professional engineering advice earlier if the building is used frequently by large numbers of people and is a higher-risk type (e.g. unreinforced masonry).

2.      Find out everything you need to know to assess risk

         Get professional engineering advice on:

  • the structural strength of the building – identify any features, critical structural weaknesses or defects that may be risky
  • any strengthening work already done
  • possible short-term actions that may decrease risk
  • other longer-term strengthening measures, consistent with council policy and your circumstances and plans.

3.      Decide what action to take

  • choose the option that provides the best “fix,” is practical and cost effective, meets council needs, and provides least disruption to tenants, users, neighbours and the community
  • talk to your tenants about how best to do any strengthening work needed, within a reasonable timeframe
  • in some cases, it may be necessary to close parts or all of the building pending repair.

The situation in the greater Christchurch area is different. Over the next three years the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) will be asking owners of commercial and multiunit residential buildings in the greater Christchurch area, to have a detailed engineering evaluation (DEE) prepared for their buildings. Building owners will be required to provide a copy of the DEE to CERA. Savanna predicts this will become an increasingly more expensive process as the structural engineering consultants available to assess and provide the DEE’s will be in short supply.

 This is not a time for procrastination, be decisive and act early