Earthquake-prone buildings – law change
In May 2016, Parliament passed the Buildings (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act. The amendment affects the section of the Act that governs earthquake-prone buildings. An earthquake-prone building is one that is less than one-third of the current structural standard.
The aim of this legislation is to introduce a nationally consistent approach to the assessment and management of earthquake-prone buildings, along with a standardised notice and national public register of earthquake-prone buildings. This new framework for addressing earthquake-prone buildings is the most comprehensive of any country in the world.
The new legislation overwrites Council’s previous earthquake-prone buildings policy. The new legislation came into force on 1 July 2017.
- Territorial authorities (councils) are no longer required to have individual policies for earthquake-prone buildings
- There will be a centralised national register for all earthquake-prone buildings in New Zealand. This means individual councils no longer need to have a register
- The country is divided into three seismic risk areas – high, medium and low. Lower Hutt is in the high seismic risk area
- A category of priority buildings is identified which require urgent strengthening. Examples of priority buildings include:
- Unreinforced masonry buildings (URM buildings) in high vehicle and pedestrian areas.
- Buildings that have the potential to impede strategic routes in an emergency.
- Hospitals and other buildings used by emergency services
- Buildings likely to be needed in an emergency as an emergency shelter/centre
- Education buildings occupied by at least 20 people (including early childhood centres, schools, private training and tertiary institutes)
- Profile categories to identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings. These categories include:
- Unreinforced masonry buildings.
- Pre-1976 buildings that are three or more storeys, or 12 or more metres high.
- Pre-1935 builldings that are one or two storeys.
The new legislation does not change the existing unreinforced masonry (URM) programme. The URM programme is running parallel to the changes to the earthquake-prone legislation.
What these rules mean for priority buildings in Lower Hutt
The new legislation requires all councils to consult the public on the identification of high-traffic/ high-pedestrian priority routes.
Then the buildings on these routes will be assessed to determine if they are priority buildings.
Councils will also need to decide if they consult on transport routes of strategic importance.
Because Lower Hutt is a high seismic risk area, owners must then assess priority buildings within two years and six months.
If Council issues an earthquake-prone building notice, the owner has to complete remedial work within seven years and six months.
What these rules mean for other buildings in Lower Hutt
If a building is identified by Council as being potentially earthquake-prone, the owners then have 12 months to provide an engineer's assessment that satisfies the governments Earthquake-prone Building methodology document. Council may then issue an earthquake-prone building notice, requiring the owner to strengthen the building within 15 years.
Owners of heritage buildings listed as a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand heritage list, or included on the National Historic Landmarks, may apply in writing to their local Council for an extension of up to 10 years to complete seismic work. This would then be considered by Council taking into account the issues and risks with the building.
Structural review of building consent applications
The structural design aspects of some building consent applications will be peer reviewed by a structural Engineer on behalf of Council. The cost of this review will be passed on to the building consent applicant. Building consent applications that will be subject to a structural review include:
- Applications for strengthening buildings that are less than 34% NBS (New Building Standard).
- Applications that include a change of use as defined by the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005.
- Other projects may qualify for review on a case by case basis.
The peer review process is a powerful tool in maintaining and enhancing the quality of engineering work. It’s an important check in a self-regulating profession like engineering. Peer review checks whether originating engineers used suitable processes and assumptions and made appropriate decisions.
If you are considering undertaking a strengthening project we encourage you to get in touch with us to arrange a pre-application meeting. We’ll work through your project and what you want to achieve, and provide you with information and advice on how to apply.
For more information visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website
After an earthquake
Find out what building owners need to do once an earthquake has occurred. You can also check out our FAQs.