Element - - Cover Story -

Univer­sity vice chan­cel­lor Rod Carr says while it’s easy to look at what fell down, Christchurch is still the sec­ond largest ur­ban cen­tre in New Zealand, and it re­mains home to more than 300,000 peo­ple. Fifty years ago the univer­sity aban­doned what is now the Old Arts Cen­tre in the cen­tral city and shifted out to three farms at Ilam. Carr praises their fore­sight and says not only has the cam­pus weath­ered the quakes well – only 14 of the 240 build­ings are still out of bounds and only a hand­ful have been de­mol­ished – but it is an in­di­ca­tion of what the cen­tral city could be like in an­other 50 years. “If you ask what a city in a gar­den feels like, it’s like walk­ing round here - low rise build­ings, mounded land, river­scapes.” The univer­sity is us­ing the up­heaval to im­prove where it can, de­spite the re­luc­tance of its in­sur­ers to make things bet­ter than they were. When it found the af­ter­shocks were snap­ping off pins in the 40-year-old steel win­dows in the li­brary, the in­surer pro­posed to sur­round the 11-storey tower with scaf­fold­ing, check all 800 win­dows, and re­place only those which were fail­ing with alu­mini­um­framed panes. “It seemed dumb to re­place some and not all, and the win­dows would only be sin­gled glazed be­cause that is what we had,” Carr says. Even­tu­ally the in­surer agreed to pay over what it would have paid, and the univer­sity is pay­ing ex­tra for dou­ble glaz­ing. “We did a busi­ness case and found the pay-back pe­riod was 12 years be­cause of sav­ings in heat­ing, so we were able to do it,” he says. “That is a green­ing of this build­ing that we would prob­a­bly not oth­er­wise have been able to do.” Carr says green­ing will oc­cur, and not just in the univer­sity. “I don’t think there is any doubt that as the city re­builds, the choices that will be made, the tech­nolo­gies that are avail­able, the rel­a­tive cost of all of this stuff will push us in a di­rec­tion of more sus­tain­able, more eco-friendly struc­tures.”

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