Earthquake prone public buildings

Balancing life safety risks and community costs.
A BRANZ funded project, working with local authorities to create advice and tools to help make decisions around earthquake-prone public buildings.

The introduction of the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act in 2016 has led to the rapid closure of a number of public buildings.

According to this act, if a building is below 34% of the New Building Standard (NBS) it is considered earthquake-prone and must be remediated within a specified time frame.  However, some building owners are choosing to close buildings as soon as they are identified as earthquake-prone, leading to long periods where the services housed in those buildings are unavailable to the community.

The closure of some public buildings has led to notable and immediate socio-economic impacts.  For example, closure of the Southland Museum affected 41 jobs.  The full economic, social and cultural impacts are still to be realised.  The closure of Naenae Olympic Pool in Lower Hutt has created a great sense of uncertainty in the community and some businesses reliant on pool users have already closed.

Through this project, we want to get a better understanding of how public building owners are making decisions around earthquake-prone buildings and what resources could help them to make the most informed and comprehensive decisions possible. Our investigation will investigate:

  • The current drivers of decisions relating to earthquake-prone public buildings.
  • How life safety risks are being balanced against social impacts of building closures.
  • How communication of engineering advice and risk influences decision-making.
Project goals

The research and decision-support tools developed will help local authorities place seismic risk in the context of the community that the buildings are a part of, so balanced well-informed decisions can be made.

It will help build an understanding of how the immediate and direct socio-economic impacts of building closure are being balanced or could be better balanced against the possible physical and human impacts of an earthquake.

Project team
This project has been funded by the BRANZ Research Levy.

This project was highlighted in a recent article in BRANZ's BUILD magazine.

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