Testing the strength of NZ’s building code

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When the big quake struck Canterbury on Saturday, September 4, and during subsequent shakes, the calibre of the New Zealand Building Code was put to the test.
Most modern buildings, despite being severely shaken, responded as they should.

Department of Building and Housing building quality deputy chief executive David Kelly says the fact our buildings performed so well, and that there were no deaths or serious injuries, is not just sheer luck.

“Since the quake, I’ve had lots of people ask me, both here and overseas, why did a little country of four million people perform so well in such a serious quake?” Mr Kelly says.
“I put it down to four key things — our earthquake engineering skills and construction practices, the lessons we learn from earthquakes here and overseas, a building control system which focuses on saving human life and minimising damage to buildings and property and, importantly, a partnership between central and local government which helps ensure buildings are built to code, and emergency services work well in a crisis.”

During a recent visit to China, Minister for Building and Construction Maurice Williamson was asked to give a presentation about the survival of buildings in Canterbury during the earthquake.
He talked about the ongoing enforcement of protection rules in keeping people as safe as possible in an earthquake, and the role of central and local governments in making this happen.
He also talked about continuous improvement in the wake of the earthquake to find out if standards can be improved further.

The Department is collecting information about building performance and land stability with the support of leading geo-technical and construction engineers.
This information will be used to improve the building control system and inform policy development.