CTV designer's evidence continues

1:50 pm on 1 August 2012

The man who designed the CTV building in Christchurch denies he had a reputation for creating buildings that were no stronger and no more expensive than they had to be.

Structural engineer Alan Reay spent a tense morning on Wednesday disputing much of the evidence given by David Harding, a former employee, at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the building's collapse in the February 2011 earthquake.

When asked by Commission lawyer Stephen Mills QC if he agreed with common evidence that he was renowned for designing structures that met the minimum building code standards, he disagreed.

Mr Harding said on Tuesday that Mr Reay oversaw and signed off building designs but on Wednesday, Mr Reay said he could not remember what involvement he had with the CTV structure.

Mr Harding prepared the detailed design of the six-storey structure in 1985, despite never having worked on a multi-storey building.

The CTV building later collapsed during the February 2011 earthquake, killing 115 people.

The two appear to be at loggerheads over who was responsible for the technical part of the design, and also who actually signed off the final plans.

But on Wednesday, Mr Reay said Mr Harding was more than capable of doing the job.

He also told the Royal Commission he could not say if it was his handwriting that had signed off the final design plans.

Design weaknesses admitted

On Tuesday Mr Harding acknowledged to the inquiry that he had not been skilled enough for the job and admitted there were significant design weaknesses in the building.

When asked about his competence by a lawyer assisting the commission, Stephen Mills QC, Mr Harding said he would not have taken on the job if he had been acting on his own behalf.

However, Mr Reay told the commission Mr Harding was a qualified, experienced and capable engineer who would have taken responsibility for the project.

"He was employed in a role where he wanted to, and was expected to, take on projects such as the CTV building without supervision."

Mr Harding said timesheets provided as evidence did not accurately reflect Mr Reay's involvement, which he believed was far more than three hours helping out.

But Mr Reay disagreed and said he was not involved in the project's design.

Although Mr Harding told the hearing the design was adequate, and there was nothing he would have changed, he later conceded there were, in fact, significant design weaknesses.

Incomplete plans

The admission came after he heard evidence from engineers who assessed the building before and after its collapse.

Mr Harding said he believed the builders who constructed it in 1986 worked from incomplete plans that did not include changes made at a later date.

He said because work was often hurried, designs were sometimes amended after the city council had approved them. He said they should then have been resubmitted to the council.

Mr Harding said that due to these "mistakes of bureaucracy" the CTV building was never issued a design certificate.

When Justice Mark Cooper asked him why the consent plans presented to the Commission showed no sign of any amendments, Mr Harding said could not be certain which plans the builders had worked off.

Mr Reay will continue giving evidence on Wednesday morning, followed by other former employees who worked on the building's design with Mr Harding.