BC Update 186: New system for managing earthquake-prone buildings

Posted: 7 June 2016

BC Update

The law for managing earthquake-prone buildings is being changed. The new system for managing earthquake-prone buildings is outlined in the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act. This new legislation addresses recommendations from the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission and the findings of a comprehensive review by the Government. It also reflects a number of public submissions on the proposed system.

The new legislation contains major additions and changes to the previous system for identifying and remediating buildings that are earthquake prone under the Building Act 2004. The aim is to standardise the rules and processes that apply to earthquake-prone buildings nationally, taking into account seismicity around New Zealand. The system avoids a “one-size-fits-all” approach, prioritising geographic areas, buildings and parts of buildings that pose the greatest risk while retaining as much built heritage as possible.

Features of the new system include clarifying the definition of an earthquake-prone building, establishing a national register of earthquake-prone buildings and issuing enhanced notices for such buildings. These measures aim to improve public information and encourage owners to remediate their buildings.

The new Earthquake-Prone Building (EPB) methodology, to be set by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), will enable territorial authorities to profile and identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings in their districts.

New Zealand will be categorised into three areas of low, medium and high seismic risk. National timeframes for territorial authorities to identify earthquake-prone buildings and deadlines for building owners to remediate earthquake-prone buildings will be set relative to their location and level of seismic risk.

The legislation defines a new category of “priority buildings” in high and medium seismic risk areas. Those buildings include certain education buildings, some hospital buildings and buildings used as emergency shelters and for emergency services. They will need to be identified and remediated within half the timeframe of other earthquake-prone buildings.

MBIE is developing new regulations to support the implementation of the system. These include criteria for exempting the requirement to remediate earthquake-prone buildings, criteria for when a substantial alteration to a building will trigger earthquake strengthening, and guidance for territorial authorities when considering whether to allow strengthening without requiring accessibility and fire safety upgrades.

Public consultation on the final form of the new regulations and the EPB methodology will take place later this year.

New framework for managing earthquake-prone buildings explains how the system will operate.

Email EPB@mbie.govt.nz if you have questions.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: