Best-practice requirements for the design, construction and maintenance of buildings get a decent look-in

There’s any number of opinions as to why some buildings in Christchurch stood up to the quake while others were decimated. Now in a bid to lay those questions to rest, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson has announced the confirmed terms of reference for the The Royal Commission’s Inquiry into Building Failure caused by Canterbury Earthquakes. 

The terms of reference require the Commission to look at the following two major areas: 

  • An inquiry into buildings in the Christchurch CBD, looking specifically at what factors led some buildings to fail severely; why some buildings’ failure caused extensive injury and death, and why buildings differed as to the extent to which they failed and caused injury or death. That will mean looking at, among other things, the characteristics of buildings which may have led to failure (for example age, location, whether buildings conformed to earthquake risk best practice).
  • Secondly, it will inquire into the adequacy of current legal and best-practice requirements for the design, construction and maintenance of buildings in central business districts in New Zealand. 

Finlayson also announced the Government will recommend Sir Ron Carter and Associate Professor Richard Fenwick as commissioners in the inquiry. Once signed off, Fencwick and Carter will join chair Justice Mark Cooper on the Royal Commission. 

The Royal Commission will report its findings by 11 April 2012, but will release an interim report after six months.

The report will also include the Royal Commission’s recommendations for:

  1. any measures necessary or desirable to prevent or minimise the failure of buildings in New Zealand due to earthquakes; 
  2. the cost of those measures, and the adequacy of legal and best-practice requirements for building design, construction and maintenance, in as far as those requirements apply to managing risks of building failure caused by earthquakes.

More about Sir Ron Carter 

Sir Ron Carter has a considerable background in the engineering sector, as a former managing director of Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner Ltd. He is a current director of Rugby New Zealand 2011 and has extensive governance experience, including chairing the Civil Aviation Authority. He has led a number of high profile reviews, including the 1999 review on the management of New Zealand’s borders. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers. 

More about Richard Fenwick

Richard Fenwick is an Adjunct Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury. He is a leader in the field of earthquake engineering and is internationally renowned for his work in the design of seismic-resistant reinforced concrete structures. He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2010 for services to engineering.

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