Aban­doned towns re­al­ity of law change

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Conversations - DR TEMI­TOPE EGBELAKIN

Sev­eral provin­cial towns in the Manawatu¯ and Ran­gitı¯kei re­gions such as Feild­ing, Mar­ton and Tai­hape have been iden­ti­fied as high­risk earth­quake-prone zones.

A new con­cept, termed pri­or­ity build­ings, was in­tro­duced on July 1, 2017 to ac­cel­er­ate the time frames for build­ings that are con­sid­ered to pose a higher risk to life safety, or that are crit­i­cal to re­cov­ery in an emer­gency.

Pri­or­ity build­ings are cer­tain types of build­ings in high and medium seis­mic risk zones that are con­sid­ered to present a higher earth­quake risk be­cause of their con­struc­tion, type, use or lo­ca­tion.

This gives coun­cils within the Manawatu¯ and Ran­gitı¯kei re­gions 2.5 years to iden­tify pri­or­ity build­ings, and prop­erty own­ers 7.5 years to strengthen or de­mol­ish these vul­ner­a­ble build­ings.

For other build­ing types, coun­cils are ex­pected to iden­tify earth­quake-prone build­ings within five years, and own­ers must strengthen or de­mol­ish these prop­er­ties within 15 years.

Sev­eral provin­cial towns in New Zealand such as Feild­ing, Mar­ton and Tai­hape con­tain a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of the build­ing stock that are earth­quake-prone.

Many own­ers of earth­quake­prone build­ings are cur­rently con­fronted with a key de­ci­sion re­gard­ing whether to de­mol­ish or seis­mi­cally retro­fit and re­use their build­ings with the op­por­tu­nity to meet new mar­ket de­mands.

How­ever, the change of use trig­gers com­pli­ance to new build­ing stan­dard, which make strength­en­ing of these build­ings un­eco­nom­i­cal in re­gions where mar­ket forces are in­suf­fi­cient to drive the vi­a­bil­ity of strength­en­ing in many sub­ur­ban towns in New Zealand.

Some of these towns have re­duced eco­nomic ca­pac­ity to at­tract in­vest­ments in prop­erty rede­vel­op­ment that will lead to im­proved seis­mic strength­en­ing of these build­ings.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Build­ing (Earth­quake-prone Build­ings) leg­is­la­tion in provin­cial towns could likely cause in­fla­tion­ary eco­nomic fac­tors and town-cen­tre de­cline, if not ap­pro­pri­ately man­aged.

With the in­creas­ing aware­ness of risks posed by earth­quake­prone build­ings af­ter the Can­ter­bury and Kaik­oura earth­quakes, sev­eral provin­cial towns are likely to ex­pe­ri­ence changes in the pat­tern of land oc­cu­pa­tion and land-use cou­pled with a grad­ual de­val­u­a­tion of real es­tate prop­er­ties.

It is pos­si­ble that these towns could likely ex­pe­ri­ence an in­creased num­ber of va­cant and aban­doned build­ings in the CBD, loss of her­itage build­ings and a pos­si­ble lack of mar­ket de­mand for older char­ac­ter build­ings.

There is an ur­gent need to ex­am­ine this im­pend­ing prob­lem in Manawatu¯ and Ran­gitı¯kei re­gions, and other sub­ur­ban towns in New Zealand by ex­am­in­ing al­ter­na­tive mea­sures that could make retrofitting and re­use of her­itage build­ings com­mer­cially vi­able.

My re­search con­ducted un­der the Quakecore um­brella is cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing how dif­fer­ent pro­grammes, pol­icy al­ter­na­tives and in­cen­tives that could be com­bined and de­vel­oped into a com­mer­cially vi­able and ef­fec­tive strat­egy to en­cour­age build­ing own­ers and de­vel­op­ers to in­vest in seis­mic strength­en­ing and adap­tive re­use of her­itage build­ings, as well as meet the ob­jec­tives/cri­te­ria of ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion, his­toric preser­va­tion and af­ford­able hous­ing.

The re­sult­ing pro­gramme could then be used make a busi­ness case for pub­lic and pri­vate in­vest­ments in earth­quake re­silience.

- Dr Temi­tope Egbelakin is a se­nior lec­turer in build­ing tech­nol­ogy at the School of En­gi­neer­ing and Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy at Massey Univer­sity.

Dr Temi­tope Egbelakin

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