Which buildings do we want to be the most ‘life safe’?

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.

Which buildings do we want to be the most ‘life safe’?

Currently, in New Zealand we require buildings with post-earthquake functions (like hospitals), and large buildings (like stadiums) to be built stronger than others.  But is that in line with current societal expectations?

We explored this question with participants in our recent EQC-funded, NZSEE Resilient Buildings Project.

Our participants told us that while avoiding mass casualty events was seen as important, there was also a strong desire to protect vulnerable persons and individuals that would support recovery. Participants thought locations where large crowds might gather after an earthquake should be prioritised (such as schools or community spaces) due to dangers presented by aftershocks and mass panic. They also agreed that buildings with post-earthquake functions are important and that this should be extended to buildings such as supermarkets.

It’s easy to take for granted that the assumptions underpinning many of our rules are correct and commonly understood. It’s vitally important to periodically review these underpinning assumptions of our rules, regulations, policies, and processes to ensure we are still meeting desired outcomes.

If you need an external perspective on whether some of your base assumptions need to be checked, then get in touch.
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