Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

SkyCity fire - Expert Reaction

SkyCity fire - Expert Reaction


A fire in the under-construction SkyCity convention centre has burnt through the night.


Reports suggest it was started as a result of construction work and the fire caught in the seven-storey building's roof.

The SMC gathered expert comment on the fire, feel free to use these comments in your reporting.

Dr Geoff Thomas, School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

"The Sky City fire occurred during construction, which is one of the three most dangerous times for a building in terms of fire safety, the other two being during alterations and demolition.

"The reasons these are the most dangerous times, is because that fire safety systems such as automatic fire sprinklers, automatic fire detection such as heat or smoke detection may not have been installed or are isolated (turned off) through all, or the part of the building where the building work is being carried out. Fire resistant separations between floors and to fire escape stairs may not be in place or are incomplete. At the same time hot work procedures such as cutting, grinding, welding, and torch on roofing may be taking place.

"The video I have seen from the media appears to show the roof cladding itself burning. This implies that rather than being a steel or concrete roof it is a membrane which are normally a form of modified bitumen. This product is similar to the tar used on roads, and is combustible, but difficult to ignite. Some types of modified bitumen membrane roofs are 'torched on' using gas torches or have seams that are joined after heating from a gas torch.

"It is not possible to ascertain the cause of the fire at this time, however there have been unconfirmed reports in the media that a 'blow torch type tool was being used on a rubber waterproofing membrane'. The same report FENZ area commander Geoff Purcell was stated as saying 'the fire…was being fuelled by straw-like material sandwiched between the waterproof roof and plywood ceiling'.

"When such work is being carried out, precautions to avoid fire including checking for flammable materials prior to using a gas torch and providing suitable portable extinguishers is recommended. This is a possible cause of this fire, but is certainly not the only one and the facts should become apparent after Fire and Emergency New Zealand complete the fire investigation.

"Thankfully there were no public in the building at the time and all the workers managed to escape safely. This may not necessarily be the case in a building undergoing alteration, with other occupants in the building, especially if the conditions of the Certificate of Public Use are not adhered to. It has been known during alterations for contractors to take shortcuts such as unnecessarily isolating fire alarm systems, not replacing fire doors into stairwells or removing door closers to fire doors protecting stairwells.

Conflict of interest statement: I was engaged by Fletcher Construction to act as a regulatory peer reviewer for Certificate of Public Use applications for a past project. I have also worked as a peer review for fire engineering design on other Fletcher Construction projects, although I am not currently engaged by Fletcher Construction.

Professor John Tookey, School of Engineering, Computer & Mathematical Science, AUT, comments:

"Construction is a risky business both financially and physically. Yesterday’s fire at the new convention centre in Auckland underlined this once again. Commercial construction sites have a range of risk factors coming together to make fire a serious threat. Subcontracted companies and operatives working for short periods in unfamiliar environments. Potentially dangerous processes involving cutting and forming of materials at high temperatures. Combustible materials either awaiting installation as new additions, or removal as waste offcuts. Incomplete fire suppression systems awaiting commission – so a fire once started is harder to fight. All conspire to present extensive fire hazards on any commercial construction site.

"There has been a substantial litany of construction related fires to hit major projects globally over recent years. Renovators at Windsor Castle in the UK caused a huge fire that burned for 12 hours. Similarly, workers on the reconstruction of the Mackintosh School of Art in Glasgow started a fire that almost completed destroyed this architectural icon. Ironically the reconstruction work was needed to repair the effects of a previous accidental blaze. Most recently the world looked on in horror as renovations work at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris resulted in damage likely to take decades to make good.

"The ramifications of the SkyCity Convention Centre fire are yet to be established. Losses as a result of the direct effects of the fire are set to be huge. The consequential effects of smoke and water damage are likely to be every bit as substantial if not more. When these losses and the business-related cashflow impact of cancelled conferences etc are calculated, the final bill could see the sky as the limit.

"In the final analysis, the future of the SkyCity project is in the hands of the underwriters and loss adjusters involved. The convention centre has been a ground zero for the financial exposure of Fletcher Construction over recent years. There is no doubt that the company is very keen to see the back of this project. However, it is not hard to imagine that this troubled project is likely to see a future sequence of litigation related to liability. Unfortunately, this is one set to run and run."

No conflict of interest declared.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

TradeMe: Property Prices In Every Region Hit New High For The Very First Time

Property prices experienced their hottest month on record in December, with record highs in every region, according to the latest Trade Me Property Price Index.\ Trade Me Property spokesperson Logan Mudge said the property market ended the year with ... More>>

Motor Industry Association: 2020 New Vehicle Registrations Suffer From Covid-19

Chief Executive David Crawford says that like some other sectors of the New Zealand economy, the new vehicle sector suffered from a case of Covid-19. Confirmed figures for December 2020 show registrations of 8,383 were 25% ... More>>

CTU 2021 Work Life Survey: COVID And Bullying Hit Workplaces Hard, Huge Support For Increased Sick Leave

New data from the CTU’s annual work life survey shows a snapshot of working people’s experiences and outlook heading out of 2020 and into the new year. Concerningly 42% of respondents cite workplace bullying as an issue in their workplace - a number ... More>>

Smelter: Tiwai Deal Gives Time For Managed Transition

Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed to working on a managed transition with the local community,” Grant Robertson said. More>>

ALSO:

University of Auckland: Pest-Free Goal Won’t Be Achieved Without New And Better Tools

New Zealand’s goal to become predator free by 2050 will remain an unrealised dream unless new technologies and advances in social engagement continue to be developed, researchers who first promoted it say. A team from the University of Auckland has ... More>>

OECD: Area Employment Rate Rose By 1.9 Percentage Points In The Third Quarter Of 2020

OECD area employment rate rose by 1.9 percentage points in the third quarter of 2020, but remained 2.5 percentage points below its pre-pandemic level The OECD area [1] employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – rose ... More>>

Economy: Strong Job Ad Performance In Quarter Four

SEEK Quarterly Employment Report data shows a positive q/q performance with a 19% national growth in jobs advertised during Q4 2020, which includes October, November and December. Comparing quarter 4, 2020, with the same quarter in 2019 shows that job ad volumes are 7% lower...More>>

NIWA: 2020 - NZ’s 7th-warmest Year On Record

The nationwide average temperature for 2020, calculated using stations in NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which began in 1909, was 13.24°C (0.63°C above the 1981–2010 annual average). New Zealand’s hottest year on record remains 2016, when... More>>