Council offices don’t meet building standard

Press Release – Gisborne District Council

Council offices don’t meet building standard Gisborne District Council’s original Fitzherbert Street building does not meet new building standards. “The building has recently been assessed as part of Council’s ten year planning and asset management …Council offices don’t meet building standard

Gisborne District Council’s original Fitzherbert Street building does not meet new building standards. “The building has recently been assessed as part of Council’s ten year planning and asset management process,” says commercial property manager Matt Feisst. “We were surprised to get results that showed the building only meets 19% of the new building standard and is considered earthquake prone.”

An earthquake prone building is a building that cannot withstand one third of the shaking at the level required for the structural design of a new building.

“When the offices were built in 1954 they met all the building standards of the day,” says building services manager Ian Petty. “Since then we have learnt more about building structures and the regulatory bar has lifted. Two structural engineers have come back saying the building is earthquake prone. If the worst should happen we are confident the building would not collapse in pancake fashion like we saw with the CCTV building Christchurch. The weakness is lateral – side to side – and the danger is that the building could become unusable after a significant shake.”

“I have issued an Earthquake Prone Building notice for the offices. This notice requires that Council take action within 5 years.”

Councillors had an informal briefing on the assessment in September “We understand that Council has to take a leadership role in our community regarding building strength,” says Mayor Meng Foon. “We live in an earthquake prone area. Our buildings must meet the standards as this is what we expect from other building owners. We are a good employer and care about our staff so we need to ensure staff safety. Staff have been kept in the picture about what is happening with the building. They have been reminded that they should drop, cover and hold if an earthquake happens tomorrow. That said there is no immediate risk to staff or the public using the building. It survived earthquakes in 1966 and 2007 with little or no damage. We would not continue to work here and invite visitors in if we were concerned that the building would fail in anything other than an extreme event.”

“We have requested a report come to Council in November outlining options, costs and recommendations to strengthen the building or to demolish and rebuild. A decision will be made before Christmas as we need to include this work in Council’s 2012-2022 Ten Year Plan.”

Gisborne was one of the few Councils to adopt the level of strengthening recommendation from the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering and the Department of Building and Housing for its Earthquake Prone Building Policy. The policy states that earthquake prone buildings should be at least two-thirds of the strength required for new buildings when strengthened.

Because the Council offices would be used to support a civil defence emergency it has to reach an importance level 4 standard (essential disaster recovery buildings) as do police stations, hospitals etc. Office blocks and retails spaces are importance level 3 and have a different standard. It is important to note that these buildings are not a lower standard but level 4 are built to a higher standard; essentially over code. If the Fitzherbert Street offices were evaluated at the importance level 3 standard the original part would still not get a pass mark.

The affected building is the two story one on the corner of Ormond Road and Fitzherbert Street. In 1982 the single story building was added along Fitzherbert Street that includes Council’s Customer Services, the Council Chamber and committee room. In 2001 another two story building was added along Rose Garden towards the Lawson Field Theatre. Both of the more recent Council buildings meet nearly 100% of the building standards.
ENDS

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