16 May 2017

Death from above, lethal overhead quake threats escape scrutiny

From Morning Report, 7:19 am on 16 May 2017

Unrestrained heavy pipes, wires and air conditioning units in building ceilings that could be lethal in an earthquake are escaping proper scrutiny.

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Photo: 123rf

Wellington City Council has admitted a lot of buildings will have been signed off prior to the 2011 Canterbury quakes as complying with rules on restraints of services, such as ducting and lighting, when they did not.

According to engineers and insurers, thousands of buildings throughout the country are also not up to standard and a law change is needed.

In preliminary tests on seismic restraints run last year by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 19 out of 20 buildings failed.

A Wellington structural engineer Ignatius Black of consulting firm Silvester Clark says even many hospitals do not have seismic restraints that meet the Building Code.

Mr Black told our reporter Phil Pennington a minority of new buildings are being properly fitted out, but there appears to be no power to force existing buildings to retrospectively fit proper seismic restraints.

Insurance Council insurance manager John Lucas said the big safety gap must be addressed either by seismic rule changes coming into law in July, or by councils checking restraints when issuing building warrants of fitness.