Building assessment system needs review, inquiry told

10:36 pm on 3 July 2012

A Christchurch City Council manager has admitted it is appropriate to review the system used to assess buildings after the September 2010 earthquake.

Steve McCarthy on Tuesday faced tough questioning at the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission which is investigating why the building collapsed in the 6.3-magnitude quake on 22 February last year, killing 115 people.

Mr McCarthy was asked by a lawyer assisting the commission about green placards, which indicate a building is safe to enter but also recommend that further inspection is required.

It was put to him that, because a green placard was issued, there was a risk there might have been no further inspections had the building's manager not organised one.

Mr McCarthy said the council had been dealing with thousands of jobs in a state of emergency, but agreed it was appropriate to review the placard system.

Maan Alkaisi, who lost his wife in the CTV building, believed a review was needed as he said green placards sent the wrong message that the building was safe to occupy.

Only minutes to arrange inspection, hearing told

Steven McCarthy told the Royal Commission he had just five minutes to assign a team to inspect the CTV building after the September quake and the fact the team did not include an engineer was a one-off situation.

Mr McCarthy said the council's protocol was that level two rapid assessments be done with an engineer present. But when an inspection of the CTV was called for, none was available.

While he had confidence in his staff, he said it was a unique situation and he did not expect them to do a level two assessment.

Mr McCarthy believed they would have come back and talked to an engineer if they were uncertain about anything and their assessment was later superseded by an engineer's inspection, organised by the building manager.

However, Mr McCarthy said the council was dealing with thousands of jobs in a state of emergency.

"I had probably two minutes, maximum five minutes to deal with this particular three jobs. I did what I needed to do and assigned the teams, but that would have been very closely followed by a lot of other jobs."

Cost of September quake damage

Earlier on Tuesday, a quantity surveyor told the Royal Commission that the damage to the CTV building after the 7.1-magnitude quake on 4 September 2010 was estimated at almost $300,000.

Quantity surveyor Leonard Pagan told the hearing he inspected the building in September 2010, along with the building's manager and an engineer.

He said he had seen worse damage elsewhere in the central business district, but that he was not a structural engineer.

However, he recalled that the engineer who was with them requested that a further intrusive inspection of the southern shear wall, which the commission has already been told was not carried out.

Mr Pagan said he expected to see the engineer's report before he filed his own report on the cost of damage, but this was not provided.