The Building Act 2004
The Building Act 2004 sets out the rules for the construction, alteration, maintenance and demolition of new and existing buildings throughout New Zealand.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment administers the Building Act 2004. The council where your building is located, acting as a building consent authority and territorial authority, is responsible for permitting building activities through the building consent process as well as a range of other building-related responsibilities.
New system for managing earthquake-prone buildings
Management of earthquake-prone buildings changed through an amendment to the Building Act. The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 (the Amendment Act) has established a nationally consistent system for identifying and remediating earthquake-prone buildings. The Amendment Act took effect on 1 July 2017.
A building, or part of a building, is considered earthquake prone under the Building Act if:
- it will have its ultimate capacity exceeded in a moderate earthquake (calculated by an engineer and given as a percentage new building standard - %NBS), and
- if it were to collapse, would do so in a way that is likely to cause injury or death to persons in or near the building or on any other property, or damage to any other property.
Timeframes and priority
The timeframes for remediating a building will reflect the seismic risk of the region it’s in, and whether it’s considered a priority building.
Councils must identify which earthquake-prone buildings are priority buildings. Priority buildings must be strengthened in half the time allowed for other earthquake-prone buildings in the same seismic risk area. This applies in high and medium seismic risk areas.
Priority buildings fall into two broad categories:
- Prescribed buildings – including certain hospital, emergency and education buildings.
- Buildings where priority is determined with community input. This category includes buildings with unreinforced masonry (URM) that could fall in an earthquake onto certain roads or thoroughfares, and buildings that could impede strategic routes. Councils must hold public consultation to identify these buildings.
Buildings excluded from the strengthening process
Some types of buildings are excluded from the scope of the new system – for example, farm buildings, retaining walls, fences, some monuments, bridges and tunnels.
Residential buildings are generally excluded, except when they are two or more storeys and have three or more household units. A mixed use building that includes residential and other uses may be within the scope of the new system – check with your council.
How your council will work with you
As a building owner, you will be dealing with your council to assess whether your building is earthquake prone, and if it is, to ensure it is remediated within set timeframes. Under the new legislation, councils are required to:
- identify potentially earthquake-prone buildings in their district and notify the building owners
- consider engineering assessments provided by building owners
- determine whether buildings are earthquake prone
- assign an earthquake rating to earthquake-prone buildings
- issue earthquake-prone building notices requiring the owner to carry out work on the building within set timeframes
- publish information about earthquake-prone buildings on the public register.