New method may make Christchurch rebuild cheaper

8:59 am on 5 January 2012

A Christchurch-based research company says it has found a way to reduce the need for expensive piles as part of rebuilding the central city.

The CBD has been severely damaged as a result of the devastating earthquake in February last year and much of it remains out of bounds.

The need for piles, some stretching 14 metres underground to help buildings better withstand quakes, is forcing many owners to consider whether they have a future in the downtown area.

New foundations now required for structures to comply with the building code mean some owners are discovering that their insurance payouts are not enough to cover the cost of rebuilding.

The owner of Valentino's Restaurant, Michael Turner, worries the central city will be left with a series of vacant lots unless a solution is found soon.

Consortium the Structural Timber Innovation Company says it has come up with a way of using wooden beams and columns laced with steel rods to construct buildings up to 15 storeys high.

It says one of the main advantages of buildings constructed this way is that they are 80% lighter than those made using reinforced concrete, and deep and expensive piles are not as necessary.

Chief executive Robert Finch says six commercial buildings have been constructed using this method to date.