From Building networks
Is this Mother Nature’s way of pointing out how vulnerable we are?
Natural disasters have a way of reminding us how much we take for granted the services we rely on… Power, drinking water, waste water, rubbish collection, to name a few. When those basic services are taken away we adopt old school survival tactics; but being separated from love ones plus enduring dislocation and/or physical harm, ensure that basic fight or flight responses kick in, as fears both real and imagined come into play. It can take some time to come down from that adrenalin high or to climb out of the cocoon we have built in the hope of protecting ourselves.
The three stages of survival following a natural disaster - (According to Rosie)
The following points are based purely on my own observations, they have no scientific measurement. Nevertheless, I wanted to share with you my reflections on the three stages of survival following a natural disaster.
In first response mode, we are just grateful for any figure of authority to inform us what is going on and provide instructions, provisions and sometimes comfort. At this time, we see another side of building inspectors than we would normally. In these circumstances, they are often welcome guests whereas in a normal situation they are too often vilified for just doing their job of compliance.
The general public are unhappy about displacement from their apartments, shops or offices. Understandably, we want to get back to normal as soon as possible; after all routine makes us feel safe.
Eventually things get back to a new normal and then our expectations start to rise again.
In some cases, the getting back to normality may be fairly fast and this can be psychologically beneficial as we adopt familiar routines and habits.
Over time, as routines return, we get complacent and take for granted the very things we valued so much just a few weeks before.
Our thinking minds kick back into gear. And sometimes the fear turns into anger and frustration. We want somebody to blame, and we want some reassurance this won’t happen again. Sadly, this particular want can never be satisfied, by anyone!
Despite safety being a basic bottom tier need on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Nobody, be that an engineer or a building inspector can absolutely and categorically guarantee any other person’s safety in a building.
The very next event could blow all the theories out of the water.
It’s easy to be critical of a building’s suitability after a disaster and expect its performance to exceed that of the era it was built in. But one must remember a building has to be under 33.3 per cent of current code to be deemed an earthquake prone building! That low threshold gives a lot of leeway and a lot of unknowns about the buildings at say 45 – 50 per cent.
Strangely, when it comes to buildings we don’t expect fire compliance or insulation to sit at 33.3 per cent of code, these must be 100 per cent. But structural changes to buildings are intrusive and expensive. It’s important to remember that in emergency or extraordinary circumstances New Zealand’s building code is designed ensure residents can evacuate a building safely, it is not designed to make the building 100 per cent usable the next day.
During recent events, most buildings have performed as expected. a smaller number have failed.
The reality is that we live in a country which is prone to earthquakes and the world as a whole is seeing weather extremes with huge environmental effects. Add to this mix, a huge stock of old buildings that were never built to modern building code anyway and we have a melting pot of instability. But remember that if the Government made a rule overnight that every building had to meet 100 per cent of the building code, the country would be bankrupt. Even then, there would be no guarantee that those buildings would be safe to occupy after 14000 aftershocks (the number experienced after Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-2012).
We are damned if we do upgrade, and damned if we don’t.
Let’s start the conversation from a basis of acknowledgement that nobody can take responsibility for our guaranteed safety in the face of natural disaster.
Are you a facilities manager? Are you going to be a facilities manager? If you are… In the words of every great DJ… This one’s for you!
It’s important to remember that not everybody with a career in facilities management comes from a building background. There’s an awful lot to this role, which people don’t always consider, you’ll needs to know about…
Q: Where does all that leave the Facilities Manager?
A: Usually relying on experts, who could be amateurs!
I’ve been in the building business for over twenty five years, and here’s my #1 piece of advice…. If somebody says, "Your building or system does not comply"… Get a second opinion!
This will save you from spending money you might not have or that could be used elsewhere.
I have recently seen a number of reports that suggest there is a group of amateurs out there telling people to address issues because their building is unsafe. Sometimes, it’s just that the building is old, that doesn’t always mean it doesn’t comply and it certainly doesn’t mean that it needs to be upgraded.
Most commonly I see reports on fire systems that are not required upgrades, simply recommendations and choices for the facilities managers to make.
Of course, the difficult part is knowing where to kick back and what to go ahead with, especially when these reports may leave the board of directors exposed to safety risk.
The solution - Ask your local council, ask us here at Building Networks, or ask your fellow professionals in Facilities Management who they would use, or how they would proceed.
What work can be done for tenancy fit outs and renovations?
See this booklet from MBIE on what work in commercial buildings does not need consent; or get training from us at Building Networks.
Changes of Tenancy
Some tenancy changes lead to building works and a legal change of use under the Building Act.
This means that there are six additional assessments on the whole building. That can be expensive and some buildings are not purpose built and would be better off leased to a limited range of options rather than incur huge costs for upgrade.
Which buildings need a BWOF and who should look after it?
The Building Act says the building’s owner is responsible that could mean you. If you farm it out to an agent how do you know they are doing the right thing?
Check out this booklet from MBIE on what work in commercial buildings does not need consent or get training from us at Building Networks.
You could also start by reading our free e-book, Beginners Guide to Building Law HERE.
Or contact us for a free 30-minute session with Rosie.