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‘Shaky Building’ Syndrome May Cost $500 Million+

New ‘Shaky Building’ Syndrome May Cost $500 Million Or More

In recent years many property owners have suffered much stress and had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to repair leaky buildings. But now the ‘shaky building’ syndrome has emerged and looks set to cause similar levels of stress and costs in particular to the owners of earthquake-prone buildings including some 1,100 multi-storey buildings in Wellington alone. With estimated strengthening costs of up to $100,000 per storey the overall costs to pre 1965 multi-storey building owners across New Zealand could be as high as $500 Million dollars or more.

Buildings most likely affected will be government and privately owned commercial buildings built before 1965 and residential buildings built before 1965 consisting of two or more storeys high and three or more household units. At the core of the ‘shaky building’ syndrome is the recent re-definition of what constitutes a ‘moderate earthquake’ in the Building Regulations of 2005, which effectively raises the threshold of the required strength of some buildings to withstand an earthquake. Combine this with the Building Act 2004 which requires all city councils to adopt a policy on earthquake-prone buildings during 2006 and we have the perfect platform for the ‘shaky building’ syndrome to emerge.

Wellington City Council (WCC), in particular, is taking it’s earthquake-prone policy very seriously as the city of Wellington is located in one of the most seismically active parts of New Zealand.

On the face of it, the requirements appear to introduce the need for just another policy adjustment by councils and over many years there have been various changes to earthquake-prone building regulations. These changes have resulted in many buildings already being strengthened to meet former earthquake-prone requirements. So you may be asking what’s so different this time that creates the perfect environment for the ‘shaky building’ syndrome to emerge?

Combining the re-definition of a ‘moderate earthquake’ with the Building Act of 2004 results in all councils needing to re-assess buildings that may now be deemed earthquake-prone. Councils will conduct a review of potentially affected properties. Most buildings built since 1965 are unlikely to breach the new requirements and therefore not need any strengthening.

However many buildings built before 1965 for example will be likely deemed earthquake-prone and require strengthening or demolition.

WCC has identified approximately 7,360 Wellington properties alone that will need to be assessed to determine whether they are potentially earthquake-prone, and estimates that approx 4,500 of those buildings will need further evaluation.

It is further estimated that over 1,100 of those buildings are likely to fail to meet the new requirements and therefore require strengthening or demolition.

This is just considering Wellington but all city councils must adopt a policy on earthquake-prone buildings during 2006 and so the ‘shaky building’ syndrome emerges.

WCC is about to release it’s draft earthquake-prone policy on the 1st February with public consultation requested during the month of February.

The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) is the professional body which represents professional engineers from all disciplines in New Zealand. IPENZ are hosting nationwide seminars throughout February 2006 to up-skill or refresh engineers on “recent developments for structural designers and civil engineers”. “By the end of the seminar participants will have been introduced to a broad range of material in earthquake engineering.”

Whilst the shaky building syndrome may well accelerate the property market into the expected residential property slump it is highly unlikely to herald a crash in property values across the board. An overall property crash is not anticipated because the economic key drivers which drive the property cycle still indicate a low level of risk of a crash in the near future. There are however some ‘niche’ markets exceptions to this which are still expected to suffer value declines in 2006-07 such as Auckland’s oversupplied CBD apartment market, some overpriced coastal property markets, some small towns and now shaky buildings must surely join that list.

On the web:

WCC Draft Earthquake Prone Building Policy - Report_1_earthquake_policy.pdf and Appendices_1-5_earthquake_policy.pdf IPENZ - http://www.ipenz.org.nz/IPENZ/nzecal/ks.cfm

Property Market Analysts - http://www.hybridgroup.co.nz/a>

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