18 Jul 2021

Building used by MSD needs upgrades, engineering survey finds

8:43 am on 18 July 2021

Only one out of more than 150 buildings used by the Ministry of Social Development nationwide needs earthquake upgrades.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The ministry got engineers to look at 154 buildings it has staff in, using assessment guidelines updated since the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.

The engineers told them most of the designs were not subject to the "C-5 Yellow Chapter" updates.

A few needed a closer look and, in the case of the single building that needs work done - which the ministry did not identify in the OIA response - it says it is talking to the landlord.

"Engineers have advised that there is no immediate risk to the ministry and/or the public in occupying the affected building until remediation works are undertaken," the ministry told RNZ.

It remains voluntary to use the Yellow Chapter when doing a seismic assessment on a building.

The revised rules help in figuring out how a building will perform in a quake, and to determine a New Building Standard (NBS) rating.

The Yellow Chapter is stricter than the Red Book rules - which must be used - and both of these are stricter than the previous rules drawn up in 2006.

The damage at the likes of Statistics House in Wellington caused by the Kaikōura quake triggered years of work on updating the assessment rules. It remains unfinished.

The Yellow Chapter was not used when 1200 hospital buildings were assessed as part of a national health asset stocktake released last year, despite the Government advising others to use it.

MSD responded to the work on the Yellow Chapter by getting the additional review done.

"These revised guidelines, although not yet approved by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, are important in understanding the seismic status of our buildings," it said in its annual review this year.

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