More Than Earthquake Repairs

December 16, 2013

As Canterbury has shown us, damage to buildings can be multi-faceted – for example  geotechnical issues, structural failure and building leaks to name a few.

Damage to buildings can arise from poor design and/or construction, or from significant events such as the Canterbury earthquakes.  Various building professionals are needed to accurately determine the causes, the extent of damage, and the expected scope and value of repair work.

These repairs must meet the requirements of the Building Act and Code, plus the terms of the insurance policy.  The policy may have more onerous conditions, such as to repair to an ‘as new’ condition.   A review of the insurance policy should be completed prior to the site assessments and certainly before repair recommendations are made.

Prendos have many of the required skills in-house such as structural engineers, building surveyors and quantity surveyors, but we are also happy to work with external consultants particularly if they are already involved in a project.

Following the Canterbury earthquake events, the first issue to address in building performance, understandably was the structural integrity of the building.  Similarly, geotechnical issues of liquefaction, lateral spread, and settlement were, or became obvious.

With this focus, the wider issues affecting the performance of the building envelope may not have been sufficiently considered.  The damage from the Canterbury earthquakes has revealed pre-existing weathertightness damage i.e. leaky buildings.  In addition some buildings have been affected by post-earthquake leaks, either external or internal , which has resulted in further damage.   We can with a reasonable degree of certainty determine whether timber decay first occurred pre or post the earthquake sequence.

The investigation process works best when there is input and interaction among  the various building professionals; the output is then merged into a single repair plan and scope of work to determine what is needed to repair the property.  Once this is established a more realistic cost of repair can be more accurately estimated.

It must be remembered that unforeseen issues and costs will arise during any repair process, so an appropriate level of contingency is needed to reflect risk and uncertainty.  It is also anticipated that as building demand increases some allowance for cost-escalation is needed.

Once repair is underway the ability to adjust and make changes becomes increasingly difficult and usually more expensive.  Poor initial decisions can be difficult to change.  While we can’t control the past we certainly can influence the future by obtaining better information and then making better decisions.
Rory Crosbie

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