Earthquake Royal Commission – eight more technical reports on representative city buildings

As with yesterday’s post, these documents are the supporting technical information underpinning the Royal Commission’s examination of the buildings named (click on the building name to go to the report):


Earthquake Royal Commission – technical reports on representative city buildings

From the Royal Commission’s website:

The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference require the examination of and reporting on a representative sample of buildings. The majority of these are reported on in Volume 2 of the Royal Commission’s Final Report.

The document’s made available yesterday are the supporting technical information underpinning the Royal Commission’s examination of the following buildings (click on the building name to go to the report): Craigs Investment Partners House – 90 Armagh Street Westpac Tower – 166 Cashel Street Christchurch Civic Building – 53 Hereford Street Christchurch Central Police Station – 48 Hereford Street.

Press newspaper’s expose of CTV builder’s fraudulent qualifications

For those of you living outside of Christchurch you may have missed the Press newspaper’s lead story this morning. Headed A life of lies it documents how William Anthony Fisher, construction manager for the company that built the CTV building, was a fraud. He was actually Gerald Shirtcliff, who had stolen the identity of another man and his engineering qualifications. The online version is here. .

Earthquake Royal Commission – transcript of the Roles and Responsibilities hearing held on 11 September 2012

The Royal Commission has published the transcript of the first day of the Roles and Responsibilities hearing held on the 11th of September. The transcript can be downloaded from here.

The first submitter to be heard was John Scarry, a structural engineer who, for some years, has been critical  of the quality of structural engineering and building construction in New Zealand. The following is from the beginning of his submission (page 7):

New Zealand can only claim to lead the world in seismic engineering in the same way that an army could claim to be undefeated because it has never fought a war. As soon as a major modern New Zealand city was hit  with  a  decent  seismic event,  a very short  one,  devastation  was caused. Of  something  like  200  buildings over five  storeys  tall in the 15 CBD, at least  100  will  definitely  be  demolished  and  many  of  the  rest may still be. To claim that except for the CTV building all modern post-1982  buildings  performed  their  life  safety  function  is  at  best disingenuous. That claim  was  fair  only  if  all  of  these  buildings  had performed  as  intended,  forming  perfect  plastic  hinges  at  the  ends  of  20 beams  and  at  the  bottom of  columns and shear walls. That  did  not happen. Most  of  them  developed all sorts of potentially catastrophic failure modes that simply were not meant to occur, and if the earthquake had been a big one from the main Alpine Fault, less intense than the 22nd of February 2011, but of two minutes’ duration, there would’ve been  25 wholesale collapses.  Appalling  standards  of  diaphragm  design and construction and the brittleness of welded wire mesh form the major part of the warnings I issued in 2002, particularly in the first version of my open  letter  which  I  will  only  now  show  to  people  in  camera.  These concerns  were  dismissed,  but  I  have  been  fully  vindicated  by  the  30 earthquakes  of  2011. I  have  tried  for  10  years  to  get  these  issues addressed,  only  to  be  ignored,  or  in  the  case  of  IPENZ  deliberately subverted.  Only now is brittle mesh slowly being banned.  Progress on  diaphragms is negligible and these are just the tip of the icebergs of the dangers I have raised.   After  starting,  after  I  started  drafting  my  open  letter  the  O’Sullivan brothers’ revelations on leaky buildings came out. Together these led to the  re-drafting  of  the  Building Act. Unfortunately  the  people  at  the Ministry  of  Economic  Development  charged  with  the  task  under  Peter Mumford simply did not know what they were doing and ignored all of my  submissions,  suggestions  and  warnings.  The  Act  has  been  a disaster.  The worst leaky buildings have almost been dealt with but the rest  are  still  in  absolute  crisis. One  of  the  most  important  reforms  I pushed  for  was  a  strong  technically  competent  building  authority.  Instead  we  got  the  Department  of  Building  and  Housing,  described recently by an engineer who is certainly no ally of mine as having two and a half structural engineers.  The senior management is full of ex-Treasury,  MED,  local  government,  WINZ  and  Department  of  Social  Welfare bureaucrats.  

Reading his comments, especially as he correlates bad earthquake design and construction with the incompetence discovered through the leaky building disaster, is both fascinating and depressing.

Earthquake Royal Commission–Building Management after earthquakes

The Royal Commission published a discussion paper on Building Management after Earthquakes and called for submissions. The summary of the discussion paper read:

This discussion paper focuses on how buildings were managed in Christchurch after the September 2010 earthquake. It looks at matters that may have led to problems in how the building safety operation was carried out that would be likely to happen again (i.e. problems with the system, rather than whether it was done well or not). The paper does not address every issue people have identified in submission or reports to the Royal Commission to date. These will be addressed in our final report. The paper focuses on how we can improve things using a range of tools – not just legislation.

The Commission has started publishing the submissions received. A link to the earlier discussion paper is here. Submissions can be found by going to the document library (here) and selecting “Building assessments after earthquakes” in the subject filter. The most recent documents are toward the bottom. .