Council working through EQPB process - 4/10/2011Wanganui District Council is working through a process to identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings (EQPB) and notify the owners of those buildings about their responsibilities.
“The council wears a number of hats in respect of earthquake-prone buildings,” Mayor Annette Main said.
“Our first role is to adopt an EQPB policy for our district which sets out the seismic standard for buildings and timeframes for upgrading to that standard.
“The second role is to manage all council-controlled earthquake-prone buildings, determine priorities and the level of upgrading required to comply with the EQPB policy and community expectations.
“We are also an employer and fund activities in a number of earthquake-prone buildings.
“We have completed our initial assessment of council’s public buildings and have also been considering information from experts who have told us about what happened in Christchurch, the behaviour of older buildings in an urban environment and how Wanganui’s situation compares.
“While Wanganui is only classed as a moderate risk seismic area, the council has considered it prudent to go through a series of workshops to get up to speed on the background information, the status of council-owned buildings and how we could proceed in the future with public and private buildings which may be earthquake-prone. It is important to remember as we proceed through these issues as a community that the February earthquake in Christchurch resulted in ground shaking that was far greater than a 2500 year design quake.
“We now need to work with our community on the processes, options and programme to deal with our buildings in line with our Earthquake-Prone Buildings Policy. This work will also feed into the 10-Year Plan and review of the District Plan in 2011/12.”
The Building Act 2004 requires each territorial authority to have an earthquake-prone buildings (EQPB) policy for its district. The policy is intended to set out the approach that the territorial authority is taking with regard to earthquake-prone buildings, in particular the upgrade of buildings. The policy does not include small residential buildings.
Wanganui District Council adopted its initial earthquake-prone building policy in June 2006 and adopted a revised version in 2009 during the 10-Year Plan review. Essentially, under the Building Act an earthquake-prone building has strength that is 33% or less of the seismic loading standard for new buildings.
“The only effective way to determine whether a building may be earthquake-prone is for a qualified structural engineer to do an Initial Evaluation Procedure (IEP),” Mayor Main said.
“As many buildings in Wanganui have not had an IEP, we don’t know how many earthquake-prone buildings there are. However, we expect there will be a significant number because of the age and construction of many of our buildings.
“However, we have completed IEPs for all council-owned Category A and B buildings and we are now working through a process of informing staff and building occupiers.”
The EQPB Policy identifies the following categories:
Category A: buildings with special post-disaster functions (for example, the Municipal Building in Guyton Street)
Category B: buildings that contain people in crowds or contents of high value (for example, the Sarjeant Gallery)
Category C: all other buildings not in Category A or B
Timeframe for building owners to have an initial evaluation procedure (IEP) undertaken on their building and submitted to council:
- Category A – December 2010 - buildings with special post-disaster functions.
- Category B – December 2011 - buildings that contain people in crowds or contents of high value.
- Category C – December 2012 - all other buildings not in Category A or B.
Timeframe for building compliance with the council’s EQPB Policy:
- Category A – Started compliance work by 2020 and completed work by 2030.
- Category B – Started compliance work by 2020 and completed work by 2030.
- Category C – Started compliance work by 2030 and completed work by 2040.
Council has also identified four Category A non-public EQPBs, 79 Category B non-public EQPBs and approximately 250 Category C non-public EQPBs in Wanganui. Category A and B building owners have been notified in writing of their responsibilities under the EQPB policy and Category C owners will soon be contacted.
“We need to remember that the IEP provides only an indication about building strength so we can’t make any decisions based on it,” Mayor Main said.
“The next step is to get a more detailed assessment of each potentially earthquake-prone building to determine its actual strength and then consider our options. We also need to work with other building owners to ensure they meet the EQPB Policy timeframes for initial evaluation and building compliance work.”
“Wanganui has some wonderful old buildings. For example, Wanganui’s Old Town area is part of the district’s unique heritage and we want to ensure that it is preserved while at the same time ensuring safety. That will mean some significant costs and challenges for private building owners which we need to weigh up against the benefit of safeguarding life, building profitability and key services. But can we afford not to do it?”
The council intends to develop a public and community education programme, as well as establishing an Earthquake-Prone Building Taskforce to work through the process.