A six-storey office building that collapsed and killed 115 people in New Zealand’s devastating earthquake last year was poorly designed, inadequately constructed and should never have been issued with a building permit, a government report said today.
The Canterbury Television (CTV) building crumbled to the ground during the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Christchurch on February 22 2011. The building’s collapse was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the 185 deaths from the quake.
Today’s report was the final release from the government-ordered commission that spent months investigating the buildings damaged in the quake. Findings released in February concluded that the CTV building was made of weak columns and concrete and did not meet standards when it was built in 1986. The building’s designer contested that.
Prime minister John Key said building failures were responsible for 175 of the 185 deaths from the quake.
“We owed it to them, their loved ones left behind, and those people badly injured in the earthquake, to find answers as to why some buildings failed so severely,” Mr Key said.
The report found several deficiencies in the CTV building’s engineering design and said the city council should never have issued the building a permit because the design did not comply with the standards at the time.
The commission also concluded that there were inadequacies in the building’s construction.
The report noted that the building had been issued a “green sticker” following a magnitude-7.0 earthquake in September 2010, signalling authorities had given it the thumbs-up for people to continue using it.
An investigation by The Associated Press last year found that inspection checks routinely used across the world to verify the safety of buildings following earthquakes fail to account for how well those buildings will withstand future quakes.
The news agency found that building occupants and public officials in Christchurch did not understand that a “green sticker” did not mean the building had undergone a thorough analysis of its structural health, nor that it would stay intact during future quakes.
The commission’s report found that the CTV building was given a green sticker after being inspected by just three building officials, none of whom was an engineer. The commission recommended that in the future, only trained building safety evaluators be authorised to inspect buildings after earthquakes, and that government agencies should research how to account for aftershocks.
Maan Alkaisi, whose wife Maysoon Abbas died in the building's collapse, praised the commission for its investigation.
“Now we know that there were many design deficiencies in the CTV building and we know who was responsible for these design deficiencies and why,” he said.
“I don’t want to see this happening again so we have to make sure that the recommendation made by the royal commission is adopted, that much better building standard is adopted and much better engineering practice is also adopted.”
Brian Kennedy, whose wife Faye died when the building fell, said the report had brought him a measure of closure but he was not interested in punishing the engineers or construction team involved.
“I think (I’m) trying to look forward a little more positively now,” Mr Kennedy said.
“Time heals a wee bit – not everything, but it makes it a little easier.”