What influences individuals’ and communities’ risk tolerance and willingness to reduce risk in the buildings they use and own?

Insights from our resilient buildings project

Over the past year, we’ve been working alongside the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering, with funding from the Earthquake Commission, to understand societal expectations for the seismic performance of buildings. 

In this series of posts, we explore some of our key findings in more depth to give some insight into what New Zealanders think about the performance of buildings in the event of an earthquake and the changes and decisions the country needs to make regarding our seismic engineering and building practices and the current regulatory regime.

What influences individuals’ and communities’ risk tolerance and willingness to reduce risk in the buildings they use and own?

This is one of the questions we explored with participants in our recent EQC-funded NZSEE Resilient Buildings Project. To know how to effectively regulate and incentivise risk reduction, we need to understand what spurs people into action and what stops them.

Beyond the usual cost-benefit equation, a number of barriers were identified including anticipated disruption to infrastructure services and neighbourhoods, assumed post-earthquake government support, and lack of trust in engineering and construction sector to effectively reduce risk. With rising inflation, housing costs and the economic hangover from Covid, there was also a lot of concern over where the cost of increased seismic resilience would fall.  Last for many large businesses risk of damage at one location, across a nationwide operation, is acceptable.  Acceptable for that business perhaps but sometimes very impactful for the communities employed by those organisations.

Understanding barriers to change is a vital part of any change process.  Get in touch if you want to find out more.

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