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CategoryAdministration and Management
Approved byVice-Chancellor
Date Policy Took Effect8 October 2012
Last approved revision14 March 2022
SponsorChief Operating Officer
Responsible officerDirector Property Services


To ensure that the seismic performance of the University's property portfolio is managed to an acceptable risk and to ensure improvements are made at optimal cost.

Organisational scope

The Policy applies to all University-owned and leased properties. It is expected that residential colleges affiliated to the University will comply.


Life Safety Hazard
A building element with a rating less than 34 per cent NBS that if it failed would lead to the collapse of the building in whole or part and would reasonably be expected to affect multiple people.
University Seismic Guidelines
Guidance document on building assessment and design of strengthening, alterations and new builds. To be maintained by the University's Seismic Programme Control Group.
Critical post-earthquake function
A function which will be required following an earthquake, and which cannot readily be delayed or relocated.
Seismic Assessment
An assessment of the structural integrity of a building under earthquake shaking in accordance with the University seismic guidelines.
Earthquake Prone Building (EPB)
Any building assessed at less than 34 per cent of New Building Standard, as defined in the Building Act 2004.
Importance Level
The Importance Level of a building is defined through definitions in the Building Code. There are five levels of importance ranging from IL 1 (structures that pose a low degree of hazard to life or property) to IL 5 (structures where a failure poses a catastrophic risk to a large area or number of people). The required level of seismic performance increases with each level of importance and this is considered in the calculation of the New Building Standard. The University may on occasions give a building a higher Importance Level than as defined in the Building Code.
New Building Standard (NBS)
The design standard required for new buildings by the New Zealand Building Code.
Seismic Zone
Low, Medium and High zones as defined by the Earthquake Prone Building ( EPB ) methodology produced by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.
Heritage Building(s)
A building of significant historic character, appearance and materials which is listed in Schedule 25.1 of the Dunedin City District Plan and/or registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.


Protecting the life safety of all people using University property from seismic hazards is the priority.

The University will meet or exceed all legal seismic performance requirements. The protection of property will be managed at the optimal long-term cost.

  1. University Seismic Guidelines

    The University's Seismic Programme Steering Group will regularly review and update the guidelines as new information emerges and legislation changes.

  2. New buildings

    All new buildings will comply with the Building Act and the resilience requirements of the University Seismic Guidelines.

  3. Seismic assessment

    1. All seismic assessments are to be carried out using an appropriate recognised methodology as defined by the University Seismic Guidelines.
    2. Buildingsshall be considered for seismic assessment based on:
      1. Age
      2. Expected useful life to the University
      3. Construction type and fall risks such as parapets, chimneys, and features
      4. Occupant capacity
      5. Date and type of any previous seismic assessments
      6. Importance level
      7. Seismic zone
      8. Cultural/Heritage significance
      9. Strategic importance i.e. accommodation buildings
    3. Older assessments shall be reviewed against the latest Guidelines as required.
  4. Occupancy assessment

    1. Where the seismic rating of a building is critical to an occupancy decision, decisions must be based on suitably qualified and peer reviewed advice.
    2. A seismic assessment of at least 67% NBS shall be obtained from a prospective landlord before the University will enter into an occupancy arrangement (e.g. Lease, Licence to Occupy).
    3. If the activities that occur within the building are driving the importance level, then the importance level can be reduced when undertaking an occupancy assessment. This is in order to undertake an occupancy assessment on life safety risk rather than post-disaster operations. This will be determined by the Seismic Programme Steering Group.
    4. The table below outlines the University's response to a seismic assessment for all its buildings, depending on the NBS rating and seismic zone.
    Seismic ZoneRatingResponse
    Life safety
    Any<20% NBSCarry out a risk assessment. If a life safety hazard is present and cannot be mitigated, the building should be urgently strengthened or vacated.
    High<34% NBSVery high priority for strengthening
    Medium or Low<34% NBSHigh priority for strengthening
    Any>34% NBS and <67% NBSMedium priority for strengthening.
    Asset protection
    Any>67% NBSAdd to strengthening programme for asset protection reasons. The decision to strengthen above 67 per cent will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  5. Seismic strengthening

    1. The Property Services Division will develop a programme to improve the seismic performance of the portfolio, which reflects the strategic importance of individual buildings. The process will be approved by the Asset Management Committee on the recommendation of the Seismic Programme Steering Group.
    2. All strengthening work shall be considered in conjunction with the Strategic Asset Management Plan and Long-Term Capital Plan and other planned maintenance or alterations to the building.
    3. Seismic strengthening shall achieve at least 67% NBS but aim for 100% NBS where practical. Exceptions to the 67% NBS target can be made with endorsement by the Asset Management Committee and approval by the University Council in accordance with the University Seismic Guidelines.
    4. Notwithstanding clause 5(c), Urgent strengthening work may target 34% NBS as an interim strengthening step where appropriate, but always strive to achieve 67% NBS or better.
    5. Where a significant capital investment is proposed, seismic strengthening shall be independently peer reviewed in accordance with the University Seismic Guidelines.
  6. Heritage buildings

    All heritage buildings are to have their heritage status considered in seismic strengthening designs.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact:

Property Services Director

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