Why TEIs need to understand the seismic risk of their buildings

Why TEIs need to understand the seismic risk of their buildings

Last updated 3 November 2016
Last updated 3 November 2016

This page provides with information about the new legislative framework for identifying and managing earthquake-prone buildings and what it means for them.

The new legislation prioritises some earthquake-prone education buildings. As a result, the tertiary sector has shorter timeframes for the assessment and strengthening of any buildings identified by territorial authorities as being potentially earthquake prone in some areas of the country.

Timeframes depend on an area's seismic risk

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act, which takes effect in July 2017, requires the identification of earthquake-prone buildings. Generally, these include most non-residential buildings and residential buildings that consist of two or more storeys and three or more household units.

Buildings identified as earthquake prone will be required to be strengthened or demolished within specified timeframes. Timeframes are dependent on the seismic risk of the area in which they are located. New Zealand is categorised into three areas of seismic risk – high, medium and low.

The corresponding timeframes are five, 10 and 15 years for identification, and 15, 25 and 35 years for remediation.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is currently consulting on proposals for supporting regulations and a methodology that sets out how territorial authorities will identify buildings and how engineers will assess buildings. MBIE are also developing guidance material.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill (New Zealand legislation)

The legislation establishes a new category of priority buildings

The new legislation creates a new category of earthquake-prone buildings called priority buildings. Buildings identified as priority buildings (medium-high seismic areas only) must be assessed and remediated in half the standard time. Priority buildings are mainly health/emergency response buildings, education buildings (including tertiary) and may include some earthquake-prone buildings next to main transport corridors.

See Section 133AE of the Building (earthquake-prone buildings) Amendment Act 2016 for more information about priority buildings. Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016

For the tertiary sector, priority buildings are any building regularly occupied by at least 20 people and used as any part of a TEI or that are also found to be earthquake prone. This definition applies to Crown-owned, TEI-owned and leased buildings.

The medium-risk and high-risk seismic areas cover most of the middle of the country. Gisborne, Napier-Hastings, Wellington and Christchurch are all in the high seismic risk area with the shortest timeframes. Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Wanganui and Nelson are in the medium-risk area. Auckland and Dunedin are in the low-risk seismic area and not subject to the priority building provisions.

If identified as earthquake prone, buildings will ultimately need to be strengthened or demolished in all seismic risk zones.

See Seismic Risk Areas on MBIE's website.

The role of territorial authorities

Territorial authorities are required to identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings in their region. If the building is determined to be earthquake-prone, the territorial authority issues a notice for the seismic work to be done on the building within a given timeframe. Generally, the building owner can choose to strengthen or demolish the building, at their cost. 

What you need to do

While it is not a mandatory requirement, TEIs may find it beneficial to work with territorial authorities to refine the buildings being identified as potentially earthquake prone.

MBIE is currently consulting on the methodology that territorial authorities will use to identify earthquake-prone buildings. An emphasis on the following building types is likely:

  • unreinforced masonry buildings
  • pre-1976 reinforced concrete buildings of three storeys or more
  • pre-1935 reinforced concrete buildings of one and two storeys (high and medium seismic risk areas only).

Building owners will have 12 months to provide an engineering assessment once their building has been identified as earthquake prone by the territorial authority.

What you should do

We recommend you understand the seismic strength of the buildings you occupy so you can prepare for the new legislative requirements.

In addition, you may have, or occupy, buildings that the local territorial authority identifies as potentially earthquake-prone. In this case, you need to understand the Act’s provisions that apply.

You also need to keep in mind that a building may become a priority building if space in it is leased by a TEI (or PTE). 

Who can help and where to get more information

MBIE has responsibility for the Building Act 2004 which now contains provisions for earthquake-prone buildings following the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016. MBIE is the Ministry likely to issue any future Crown guidance around building seismic issues.

You can read more about the legislation and how it will affect you on MBIE’s Building Performance website and we will add MBIE’s guidance material on the regulations to this web page as soon as it is available.

MBIE’s Building Performance website

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the specifics of the legislation contact MBIE on epb@mbie.govt.nz

If your enquiry is about operational or policy implications of the legislation for the tertiary sector, contact our Monitoring and Crown Ownership team by emailing CAMenquiries@tec.govt.nz