This is a key piece of legislation affecting many building owners in New Zealand. Internationally, it is also a landmark piece of legislation. New Zealand is a leading country in tackling the seismic risk posed by our vulnerable older building stock.
Minister Nick Smith announced on 10 May revisions to the proposed Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill that is currently within the Parliamentary process.
This is a key piece of legislation affecting many building owners in New Zealand. Internationally it is also a landmark piece of legislation. New Zealand is a leading country in tackling the seismic risk posed by our vulnerable older building stock. Other countries have much more limited legislative controls, including California, where the statewide legislative focus is only on hospitals and schools.
The salient points:
- There is no change to the earthquake prone level. It is proposed to remain at 34% %NBS (New Building Standard)
- The earthquake prone building policy is proposed to be retained as a national policy
- The timeframe for assessment and strengthening has been revised to a risk-based targeted approach. NZ is split into three seismic risk zones (low-medium-high). The time frames for assessment and strengthening buildings are proposed to vary by zone with shorter time frames for emergency and education buildings in high and medium risk zones
- Heritage buildings will be given a 10 year extension for strengthening
- The policy announcement notes that there will be a focus on unreinforced masonry buildings without clarification yet on what this may mean. It also introduces a new category for buildings with a %NBS less than 20%
- Low risk, low occupancy buildings and non-buildings are to be excluded from the earthquake prone building legislation. This includes farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, monuments, bridges, tunnels, storage tanks
- For earthquake-prone buildings, any significant alteration will trigger an earthquake strengthening requirement
- There will be a public register of earthquake-prone buildings with %NBS noted. More importantly, all earthquake prone buildings will be required to display a notice at the building entrance, red for buildings less than 20%NBS and orange for buildings less than 34%NBS.
The proposed legislation still needs to run through the Parliamentary process and there may be further changes to the proposed Amendment.
Nick Smith is right - earthquake risk to life cannot be completely eliminated, nor every heritage building saved, or the cost of strengthening buildings avoided. Similarly society cannot pretend this risk is not real simply because it is rare and a long term risk.