New system for post-disaster building management
A new system for managing buildings in the event of earthquake or flooding disasters was launched by Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith at the Australasian Structural Engineering Conference in Auckland today.
“We need better systems, stronger guidance and improved preparation for managing building safety after a major disaster. We want to minimise risk to people’s safety while also enabling communities and businesses to recover as quickly as possible,” Dr Smith says.
“These systems and guides are the product of lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes. The Royal Commission rightly praised the huge effort put in by building professionals immediately following the earthquake, but also recommended changes and improvements to ensure a more effective and efficient response in future events.
“The key change is the shift away from the ‘traffic light’ system of red, yellow and green placards to indicate the condition of a building. The colours that will instead be used are red, yellow and white. Red means entry to the building is prohibited; yellow means restricted access; and white means light or no damage.
“The Canterbury earthquakes showed that people assumed a green placard meant the building had no issues and was good to go. In reality, it meant that on visual inspection the building could be used, but should have used further detailed evaluation. The new white placard will indicate that the building is poses low risk, but it does not necessary mean it is safe.
“These two guides published today provide comprehensive information for building professionals on assessing buildings following an emergency. These assessment are difficult work because distressed people will want to access buildings urgently, there will be potential safety risks in doing assessments and it will not be possible to do comprehensive engineering checks. These guides will enable this work to be done more quickly, more effectively and more consistently.”
Other changes to New Zealand’s emergency building management arrangements are the training of a core group of around 400 building experts and emergency managers to act as ‘on-call’ assessors, and amendments to the Building Act to strengthen its emergency provisions.
“These new systems, manuals and training mean New Zealand will be much better prepared to deal with building safety issues in the event of a future disaster,” Dr Smith concluded.