Council awaits direction on building rating

A public building rating system for Dunedin has been discussed at council staff level, but that is as far as matters will go before further direction is received from the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and any subsequent legislation, staff say.

Recommendations concerning the assessment and public disclosure of information about a building's safety, as well as a raft of other issues on building design and performance that will affect how local authorities manage building safety in their areas are expected to be part of the commission's final report, due out this month.

The Christchurch City Council last month repeated its support for a publicly displayed rating system, which makes the seismic resilience of buildings known, although it, too, will wait for legislative direction from the Government based on the recommendations of the commission.

There, the council has so far received detailed evaluations on 579 of the city's 7500 commercial buildings from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, which has the power to require a structural survey of buildings and has been doing so since last October.

In Dunedin, the city council has given the owners of more than 2500 pre-1976 commercial buildings two years, from July this year, to provide it with an initial evaluation procedure (IEP) report. So far, the council has received 111 reports.

Letters were not sent to owners of buildings the council was aware were already strengthened, or in the process of being strengthened.

Under the council's new earthquake prone building policy, if a building's strength is found to be at less than 34% of the building standard, owners will be given between 15 and 30 years, from July 1 this year, to upgrade to at least 34%.

However, if people want to change the building's use in the interim, they will be required to upgrade to 67% of the standard.

The policy could change if the Building Act is amended as a result of the commission's recommendations.

There is no legislative mandate for introducing a building rating system, and building owners cannot be compelled to display a building rating system as it stands.

But if the commission recommends it, it is possible there could be amendments to the Building Act to provide for structural assessments and rating of all commercial and public buildings in New Zealand.

Dunedin City Council chief building control officer Neil McLeod said it was likely building control managers in all councils had discussed a rating system to some extent, but it had not got to the council level in Dunedin because the preference was to wait for some direction from the commission.

The report was likely to include a "whole raft" of recommendations on things that could have ramifications for Dunedin, he said.

Unlike some other councils, which were waiting until any changes in legislation were made, Dunedin had recently re-drafted its dangerous, insanitary and earthquake prone buildings policy, and now had a proactive policy that was "running live".




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