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Information leads to council requirements changes


4 December 2003

New building information leads to changes

in council requirements

Auckland City's building application, consent, inspection and compliance requirements are to be enhanced following information received from the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS), which backs up the assessment of claims made against the council.

This information, along with the Kelleway adjudication has resulted in a revision of the way in which the council approves and inspects houses using monolithic cladding.

The Kelleway adjudication (an October WHRS case ruling involving Waitakere City) provides clear guidance about what the council needs to do during inspections to be "satisfied on reasonable grounds" of granting building code compliance and points to potential liability for the council and ratepayers.

In December last year Auckland City led the response to the weathertightness issue by being the first territorial authority to require a cavity, and other technical improvements, for "high risk' buildings using monolithic claddings.

"High risk' buildings adopt a "Mediterranean" appearance of plaster and adobe finishes. Typically, the style can be identified by flush plaster finishes, lack of eaves, use of parapets and with balconies both internal and external to the building's principal form.

The City has now received information from the WHRS, analysing 208 claims nationally.

"This information leads us to believe that all buildings using monolithic cladding require the same technical improvements that we introduced last year for "high risk' buildings," said Mr Paul Sonderer, director customer services.

"Without these technical improvements we cannot be sure that the building complies with the building code.

"Because of this new information, the need to protect building owners and the potential future financial risk to ratepayers, we have decided to act quickly and decisively in terms of what the city requires for all buildings currently being built, or about to be built, using monolithic cladding.

"The WHRS has received more than 2000 claims, 930 of those are in Auckland City. Our insurance excess is $2 million per claim so the potential risk to ratepayers, should claims succeed in whole or part, could run into millions. Nationwide, ratepayers confront a potential bill running into tens of millions. We need to act to protect ratepayers from the bill continuing to escalate in the future," said Mr Sonderer.

While each building will be assessed on a case by case basis the broad decision is that all buildings using any form of monolithic cladding, irrespective of design, will now require a cavity, adequate mechanical flashings which do not rely on sealants, and waterproof covering over parapets and balconies.

This decision was applied last year to high-risk buildings but has been extended to apply to:

- all building applications yet to be submitted, or currently submitted and being processed, as part of the building consent process

- all consented buildings, either yet to start construction or currently under construction, as part of the inspection process

- all completed but uncertified buildings, as part of the code compliance certificate (CCC) process.

There are three types of monolithic cladding systems on the market; traditional stucco plaster, Proprietary Plaster Systems (EIFS) and fibre cement.

"The council recognises this will result in unplanned expense for some homeowners. Acting in any other way, however, would simply be irresponsible, as there are just too many areas of doubt," Mr Sonderer said.

If the council has any doubt about whether or not a particular building complies with the code, it will advise the homeowner and or builder. Council will then issue a notice to rectify. This outlines what the council needs the homeowner and or builder to rectify so that the doubt is removed. They will be advised they have two alternatives, either comply with the notice to rectify, in that case apply for a variation to their consent, or seek a determination from the Building Industry Authority (BIA). When the BIA becomes involved, it will decide whether or not the building is code compliant and Auckland City is required to act on that advice.

"The BIA has the skills and expertise to make judgements in these areas that we could follow. Meetings are already occurring to discuss ways in which the BIA could help both homeowners and the council," Mr Sonderer said.

"We have done all we can to rectify this issue, talking with the government and the BIA looking for clear guidance on what is and isn't code compliant.

"The council is acting in the long-term interest of both ratepayers and homeowners by taking the most prudent and responsible option available," Mr Sonderer said.


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