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University continues programme of seismic assessment and strengthening

Clocktower clock

Wednesday 29 May 2013 4:08pm

A significant proportion of the University of Otago's older buildings have now been comprehensively assessed for their ability to withstand seismic shaking, with staff and student safety in these buildings the ongoing priority.

At a special forum in the College of Education Auditorium, University Chief Operating Officer John Patrick today updated staff that the University was continuing to put significant time, effort and resources into ensuring buildings meet appropriate seismic standards.

The University announced in March last year it has committed $50 million for earthquake assessments and strengthening work between 2012 and 2019.

The University’s seismic strength targets are to strengthen all buildings to at least 67% of the New Building Standard (NBS), and as close to 100% of NBS "as practicable.”

Those earthquake prone buildings occupied by staff, and residential colleges owned by and affiliated to the University, are receiving the highest priority, Mr Patrick says.

To date, four non-residential research/operational facilities have been assessed as most likely earthquake-prone, or below 34% of NBS. These are the Scott building used by health sciences in Great King Street; the six-storey Arts Building occupied by humanities staff in Albany St; The Property Services building used by facilities staff in Albany St, and the St David 2 Building currently unoccupied (formerly Foundation Studies) in St David St.

"The work required to strengthen these buildings is still being determined, but will obviously mean disruption for staff who may need to be relocated once work programmes are decided," Mr Patrick says.

Options for the 1969-constructed Arts building include demolition and building anew, or a major repair to the existing structure. The former LivingSpace building purchased by the University in 2013 is an option under consideration to provide temporary decant space for staff and students currently working in the Arts building.

Options to upgrade the Property Services and the Scott buildings are being prepared, as well as options for staff decant space. A proposal to strengthen and alter the former Foundation Studies building is also being planned in preparation for this building eventually housing the Department of Applied Science.

Of the residential colleges assessed so far, some have already received strengthening work, including the historic Knox College, now over 100% of NBS.

Further strengthening work is planned for the 2013-2014 summer break on some residential buildings.

Mr Patrick says the University's $50 million budget will be used to provide loans to affiliated colleges to undertake strengthening work should they require it.

Student residential colleges that are not found to be earthquake prone but are less than 67% of NBS will have priority to be strengthened to 67% and above.

Results at a glance: Arana – all greater than 67% NBS except for Denmeade House (40% NBS), White House (35% NBS), Skinner House (35% NBS); Carrington – most buildings greater than 67% NBS; Zoology – 96% NBS; Surveying School – 80% NBS; Marama Hall – 100% NBS; Archway – 100% NBS; Scott/Shand Professorial Houses - 100% NBS; Black/Sale Professorial Houses – 100% NBS; Unicol (Admin building 57% NBS, North Tower 85% NBS, South Tower 85% NBS, North Annexe greater than 100% NBS, South Annexe greater than 100% NBS); Toroa – ranges from 53% to greater than 100 NBS; Abbey College ( Main building 62% NBS, Motel block greater than 100% NBS, South House 72% NBS, West (Wardens) block greater than 100% NBS).

Buildings still to be comprehensively assessed: Carrington (remainder), Cumberland Castle Wing, the Applied Science building, Gregory building, Hercus building, Physical Education buildings, Union Court, Botany building, Union Street Bridge, St David Street Bridge, McIntosh House, Humanities Annexe 1 and 2, Nursery Centre, Preschool Centre and Childcare Centre, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, Quality Advancement Unit, Health & Safety Unit.

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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