"The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) is analysing the Government’s changes to earth-quake prone buildings, announced today, with particular concerns about the assessment process and increased pressure on the already severe shortage of engineers."
The Media Release is as follows:
IPENZ concerns with new earth-quake prone building rules
The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) is analysing the Government’s changes to earth-quake prone buildings, announced today, with particular concerns about the assessment process and increased pressure on the already severe shortage of engineers.
IPENZ chief executive Andrew Cleland said his organisation, representing about 15,000 engineers nation-wide, had requested further details about the changes to know if they were realistic and in-line with best practice.
The Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced the deadline for seismic assessments of all non-residential and multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings would be within five years of new legislation taking affect, with any strengthening work required within 15 years.
A summary of the main points is available at http://www.dbh.govt.nz/epb-policy-review
However, Dr Cleland said it was unclear from the summary what level of competence would be required to complete the first assessment - a structural engineer or whether it could be a building inspector who may not have the suitable skills or training required.
He understood that assessment results would not go on a public register until they were agreed upon by building owners, but confirmation of this was needed. IPENZ supported disclosure in principle but had concerns, which were raised in its submission, about imprecise assessment information. Assessments were never an exact science with the results presented as a feasible range rather than a single number, but the effect of small changes in the result could be large in cost and repair work. IPENZ would not want to see the unavoidable uncertainty in assessments affect property values or strengthening cost unnecessarily.
IPENZ also wanted to check whether building owners had the right to challenge the territorial authority’s assessment results, before they were published on a public register.
“Further analysis of these policy changes will be required to determine if the proposed time frame and the work required is achievable. At this stage we don’t have any detail on the level of expertise required to complete the first assessment, and whether it will give the quality of information needed for the policy to work effectively” Dr Cleland said.
IPENZ believed the assessment and any strengthening work should be undertaken by a skilled structural engineer, able to take into account all the critical vulnerabilities – parapets, unreinforced brick facades and stiff structural columns.
However, this would add further pressure to the severe shortage of engineers that already existed nation-wide.
The Canterbury earthquake and most recently the 6.5 magnitude North Island earthquake had highlighted New Zealand’s vulnerability to a shortage of engineers.
Critical work in both cities was unable to be carried out as quickly as desired through insufficient capacity of engineers with the right competence for technically demanding work. Immigrant engineers help but take time to get up to speed with our requirements for critical work.
The shortage of engineers was a consequence of a long term under-investment in producing enough engineering graduates. The percentage of total graduates who chose engineering is lower in New Zealand – 6 per cent - than any other country in the OECD – averaging 13 per cent, Dr Cleland said.
IPENZ had warned about this shortage for many years. To ease this it promoted the profession in schools with engineer ambassadors who encouraged the uptake of science and technology subjects through a Government-funded programme it delivered, called Futureintech.
However, this was a long-term strategy but in the short-term the severe shortages would continue.
For more information contact: IPENZ chief executive Andrew Cleland email@example.com or 021311879 or communications manager Michelle Sutton 021 479 885