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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Home code derided as 'laughable'

Home code derided as 'laughable'

Last updated 05:00 20/04/2011
Christchurch homes were poorly designed for an earthquake and the "laughable" building code should be overhauled, engineer and Far North Mayor Wayne Brown says.

In a report to the Government and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, Brown said engineers were "shocked" by poor residential building standards when they inspected houses after the February quake.

Many homes had been clad in unsecured and unreinforced brick, which had collapsed during the quake, he said. Others had frames that were not attached to the house's foundations.

"These are very basic standards of construction that have been flouted."

He said brick cladding, chimneys and heavy roof tiles should be banned, with the emphasis going on weatherboard or lightly clad homes with corrugated iron roofs, which had performed well in the quake.

"Simple rules ... would have reduced the damage cost by billions if they had been in place," he said. "Flexible structures performed way better than rigid ones."

The residential building code should be overhauled, he said.

"Simple, sensible, widely accepted rules ... would have done far more good than toughening up what is already a laughably long and complicated residential building code that concentrates on the wrong things."

Brown was involved in Operation Suburb in early March, an emergency assessment of quake-hit suburbs.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said many of Brown's observations, such as the poor performance of brick cladding, were obvious, but he rejected criticism of the residential building code.

"It's easy to be an expert afterwards," he said.

The Department of Building and Housing was reviewing many areas highlighted by Brown, and the building code would be toughened, he said.

Which homes would be rebuilt would be largely up to homeowners and insurers, he said.

Department building quality deputy chief executive David Kelly said the quakes had revealed some bad building practices unique to Christchurch homes, such as widespread use of unreinforced concrete slabs.

"We will be looking at some strong guidance around that."

He rejected the suggestion that certain materials, such as brick cladding or tiles, should be banned, and preferred more general guidelines that would ensure good quality.

Parker said many of Brown's recommendations were sensible, although couched in "pretty direct language".

Building techniques in Christchurch had been based on an assumption that there was a relatively low earthquake risk, and would now have to change, he said.

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