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'Traffic light' building stickers confusing - quake commission

Published: 6:32PM Monday December 10, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission has called for a shake-up of the sticker system for damaged buildings and new categories of engineering to ensure complex buildings are safe.

These are among 80 further recommendations the commission has made in the final three volumes of its report.

Two-hundred-and-fifty volunteers carried out rapid building assessments after the September 2010 earthquake, but fewer than half of them were trained engineers.

The commission's report is now seeking the creation of a specialised group of evaluators, and only this team would be authorised to deem buildings safe.

The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand welcomes the proposed change to building assessments.

"The issue with these is they're only needed very occasionally, and someone has to pay for the training," said Andrew Cleland, CEO of IPENZ.

"So providing that's properly funded, it makes really good sense to have that pool of people available."

The "traffic light"' stickering system used to identify the level of damage to buildings has also been slammed.

The report says the wording and the colour of the placards is unclear and confusing, and that green placards are frequently interpreted as meaning a building is "safe". It says green placards should become white.

In respect of engineering, the commission is recommending a new category - a recognised structural engineer who would certify the design of complex buildings.

It also recommends that a chartered engineer be engaged in the design process alongside the architect.

"Getting closer to the architect should be a natural thing for us to do. And in fact it's something I think most engineers out there would welcome," Cleland said.

The Christchurch City Council has also been criticised. The report says the council should never have given a building permit for the CTV building where 115 people died.

Late this afternoon the council released a short statement saying it is taking the commission's findings very seriously and will be taking its time to consider the recommendations.

The Government says it will carefully consider the commission's full report and its recommendations, and deliver its response early to mid next year.

The report has potentially wide-ranging implications for the entire country, not just Christchurch and the Canterbury region, said Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

"Lessons must be learnt from the Christchurch experience and we owe it to the victims, and their loved ones left behind, to get the response right," he said.