From Building networks
I read this article “Heritage Matters To” on scoop over the weekend and I just couldn’t help but respond. Ben Schrader, urban historian, is critical of the Government’s stance on Christchurch’s heritage building demolition preferring to loose a ‘few’ lives for the sake of preserving history. I don’t support this at all. And thanks Ben because someone has challenged me enough to come forward with a few home truths. Now this may seem ironic from someone like me who has Masters degree in History (among other things) but I can’t bare to think that historic buildings should prevail over building safety.
For decades the earthquake engineers in this country have been telling those who will listen in Government of the problems we have with our “historic” pre-1975 buildings. Christchurch’s quakes have realised the point in our lifetime. The Building Act 2004 and associated regulations were changed to up the ante on assessment and strengthening programmes for these ‘at risk’ buildings but what has been done about it? The deceit is that these risks were known about and the local and central politicians have just gambled it would nor occur during their tenure in office.
The reality is that is costs $$$ to assess and strengthen a building of this risk orifice gives little immediate return for the landlord and thus the reluctance by building owners to submit. It is also a bit of law no Council likes to enforce especially in a local government election year and on top of a recession with buildings being partially tenanted anyway.
And yes there is a tension between the purposes behind the Building Act and the Historic Places Trust Act. But maybe building tenants and employers and leases deserve to be informed of the roulette wheel they occupy and decide whether they still wish to occupy or not.
I was once a naïve member of the public, taking the buildings I lived and worked in for granted. But after 16years teaching the Building Act and being alongside building inspectors and professionals such as earthquake and fire engineers I think its time the country knew what nasty secrets lie in the built environment we occupy. Its not just leaky building NZ Inc needs to do something about!
And my last comment to you Ben is, I just hope you are not IN Cuba Mall or in one of the Historic buildings you are so fond of when the big one hits Wellington! Maybe your loved ones would rather you survived to tell the tale and that the building you were in was still standing.
Building Networks NZ Ltd