Seismic Upgrades: A Necessity or Choice for Building Alterations?

23 Nov, 2023 |

Reading time < 1 minute

| Share on
Seismic safety is a top priority in Auckland. Whether it's a 'Change of Use' or an 'Alteration to Existing' building, understanding council requirements and seismic standards is crucial. It's all about balancing safety with practicality. For those planning upgrades or alterations, early consultation with experts and the Council is key.

The Impact of Christchurch Earthquakes on Building Regulations 

Following the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, New Zealand’s approach to building safety, especially in Auckland, has shifted significantly. Councils have strengthened seismic requirements for buildings, particularly multi-storey structures. This change primarily stems from increased safety considerations and the stipulations of insurance companies. The revised regulations necessitate a comprehensive review of buildings to enhance their seismic resilience, highlighting a greater focus on public safety and infrastructure robustness in earthquake-prone regions. 

‘Change of Use’ and Seismic Performance Standards 

The Building Act includes specific rules for buildings undergoing a ‘Change of Use’. In these cases, the law requires an upgrade in the building’s seismic performance. Alterations that change a building’s use bring added complexity, particularly if they extend beyond individual tenancies. Such changes call for a meticulous approach to seismic upgrading of the base building. Early discussions with Council and consultations with experts are essential to determine the extent of necessary upgrades. 

Alterations to Existing Buildings: Understanding Compliance 

When it comes to ‘Alterations to Existing’ buildings,  

The clauses of the Building Act are constantly being updated and expanded, particularly concerning seismic upgrade requirements. In the past, only Section 112 of the Building Act was applicable, which necessitated a review of fire safety and accessibility provisions solely in the context of alterations. However, the current regulations require territorial authorities to identify buildings that may be prone to earthquakes. For such buildings, owners are obligated to provide engineering assessments and complete necessary strengthening work within a specified timeframe. 

Due to these strengthening efforts, there can be disruptions to the fire cells of the existing building, potentially compromising existing passive fire protection features. Therefore, it is crucial to review both active and passive fire safety systems concurrently with the seismic engineering design process. 

THE DESIGNFIRE has successfully assisted numerous clients in updating their buildings to meet these current code requirements. 

Assessing the Need for Seismic Upgrade Requirements 

Determining whether to upgrade a building in the context of alterations involves several considerations. These include the alteration’s nature, council policies, and the building’s current state. It’s crucial for building owners and developers to assess these factors carefully to make informed decisions. Engaging with expert consultants and the Council early in the planning process is vital to navigate these complex requirements effectively and ensure compliance with the evolving seismic standards. 

Ready to chat?
CALL US ON 0800 030 802