Recently there have been major changes to the current system for identifying and remediating earthquake-prone buildings under the Building Act 2004. Refer to managing earthquake-prone buildings (on MBIE website), to get a better understanding of the key changes involved, related legislation additions and changes to the Building Act and how it will effect Territorial Authorities, building owners, users, and engineers.
All Territorial Authorities are required to adopt a policy on Earthquake-Prone Buildings (EPB) and potentially affected buildings are required to be assessed for earthquake resistance.
Definition of an earthquake-prone building
The focus is mainly on commercial and public buildings, priority buildings (e.g. hospitals) and multiple units, multi-storey residential buildings, but not detached dwellings or farm buildings. Section 133AB of Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 provides a new definition of earthquake-prone building:
(1) A building or a part of a building is earthquake-prone if, having regard to the condition of the building or part and to the ground on which the building is built, and because of the construction of the building or part,-
(a) the building or part will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake; and
(b) if the building or part were to collapse, the collapse would be likely to cause –
(i) injury or death to persons in or near the building or on any other property; or
(ii) damage to any other property.
(2) Whether a building or a part of a building is earthquake prone is determined by the territorial authority in whose district the building is situated
Definition of a moderate earthquake
A moderate earthquake is defined in section 7 of the Building (Specified Systems, Change the Use, and Earthquake-prone Buildings) Regulations 2005:
moderate earthquake means, in relation to a building, an earthquake that would generate shaking at the site of the building that is of the same duration as, but that is one-third as strong as, the earthquake shaking (determined by normal measures of acceleration, velocity, and displacement) that would be used to design a new building at that site.
Assessing if a building is earthquake prone
Refer to the managing earthquake-prone buildings on the MBIE website
Buying a building that may be earthquake-prone
As when buying any property, you should arrange for checks or surveys by a professional and independent person or organisation. This will help you understand the implications before proceeding with the purchase. This information may also be available in a Land Information Memorandum (LIM).
Dealing with earthquake-related hazards
WorkSafeNZ is New Zealand’s workplace health and safety regulator. Their Position Statement for employers and owners of workplace buildings (buildings that are workplaces or contain workplaces) covers:
- Employer/owner legal obligations under the Building Act 2004 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and the consequences of not complying with legislative requirements.
- Identification and management of hazards and planning for emergencies through appropriate processes, plans, and practice drills.
- Identification and management of risks associated with attached building components such as verandas, ceilings, glass.
- Identification and management of risks associated with chattels and equipment.
- Preparing for emergencies.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) who administer the Building Act 2004 have also posted the following guidance for building owners:
- Building safety advice in earthquakes: This covers prioritizing building assessment, assessing risk, and taking action if the building’s use changes or the building is earthquake prone
- Post emergency building assessment – guidance, field guides and assessment tools