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Earthquake Building Assessments

The following four step process is used to assess whether buildings are safe for re-occupancy after a significant aftershock. 

Step 1 – Initial assessment

1.1 This consists of an initial structural and hazard identification check by Facilities Management (FM) staff to ensure the building is structurally undamaged and safe to re-enter. FM staff immediately check for any new damage by sighting a number of indicator points on our buildings (these indicator points are points that have been so identified as they are most vulnerable to damage). A standardised process is followed and an initial assessment form is completed.

1.2 This checking is recorded by FM staff and reported to the Director Facilities Management who then reports to the Director Corporate Services. If any matters of significance are identified the Director Corporate Services advises the Chief Executive of the finding and the need for further investigation.

1.3 If the quake event was significant enough in magnitude to give cause for concern about the structural integrity of a building then no staff, including FM staff, will enter that building until professional independent engineering advice is obtained. In such circumstances the process will move straight to Step 2.

Step 2 – Structural assessment

2.1 Independent structural engineers undertake a detailed assessment to determine if any structural damage was sustained during the earthquake. The process includes, if necessary, opening up parts of the building to inspect key elements of the structure at points where damage may be anticipated.

2.2 Ara uses Powell Fenwick Consultants as its engineers. The same engineers have inspected Ara buildings following all of the quake events (September, February, and June) and have detailed knowledge of all buildings and how they have responded in each of the quakes. With this history of working with Ara, the engineers have identified a number of key measurable indicator buildings and locations that assist them in determining if there has been any structural impact on the building stock.

2.3 Following a significant quake, buildings will not be reoccupied without clearance from the engineer.

Step 3 - Building systems and damage assessment

3.1 Once clearance to re-enter buildings is given a check on all building systems including fire protection, egress, electricity, water, lifts, plant rooms, air-conditioning, security systems, and LPG are carried out by a combination of qualified Ara staff and professional contractors.

3.2 Depending on the extent of any damage, these checks may then lead to specialist services being contracted to come on site, e.g. electrical/mechanical.

3.3 Any other items needing repair are also identified at this step.

3.4 If any repairs or remedial work impact on the safe occupancy of a building, or part thereof, the area is isolated until repairs are completed.

Step 4 – Signoff and re-commission

4.1 All systems which form parts of the City Council Building Warrant of Fitness process, e.g. fire systems/gas/plant rooms/lifts, are checked and re-commissioned prior to occupation.

4.2 Any damage identified in Steps 1 to 3 that would result in a building being non-compliant with City Council code is repaired before occupancy is permitted. All repair work is overseen by the engineers and is signed off by them as completed.