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Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission Te Komihana Rūwhenua o Waitaha Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission – Te Komihana Rūwhenua o Waitaha

Those who lost relatives and friends in the 22 February earthquake can be assured that there will be a very thorough inquiry into the failure of buildings that resulted in loss of life.
Chair, Justice Mark Cooper
 

Volume 5: Section 1: Summary and recommendations – Volumes 5–7 (Part 2)        Return to part 1 <

Final Report
Volume 5: Section 1:
Summary and recommendations – Volumes 5–7 (continued)

Section 3: Roles and responsibilities

Through the course of our Inquiry, we identified some systemic issues relating to the regulatory framework for buildings, such as misunderstanding of the framework, a complex and confusing suite of regulatory documents, and quality assurance issues. These issues relate to the design and construction of complex, new buildings.

Quality assurance is vital in the structural design of complex buildings. Quality assurance occurs at a number of levels throughout the design and construction of such buildings. The currently large number of building consent authorities results in inconsistent application requirements and consent decisions around the country, and varying levels of capability within these authorities.

The experience and skill of structural engineers designing such structures also may vary, with reliance placed on the building consent authority to provide a check.

This poses risks for the quality of our buildings. We have concluded that the design of complex buildings (as defined in section 3.3.8.2 of Volume 7 of this Report) requires a higher level of competence. We consider the appropriate regulatory procedure to ensure this occurs is through the preparation and submission of a Structural Design Features Report at the start of the building consent authority’s assessment of a building consent application. The building consent authority would, on the basis of this report and criteria to be developed, determine if the structure is a complex one. If it is determined to be a complex structure, a “Recognised Structural Engineer” would be required to certify the structural integrity of the design. The building consent authority would then determine whether it has the staff with the appropriate competency to process the consent application in-house (and whether any additional peer review certified by a Recognised Structural Engineer is required), or whether it needs to refer the application to another building consent authority that has the staff with the appropriate competency to process the application. If the structure is determined to be not complex, the engineer who provided the Structural Design Features Report would certify the structural integrity of the building’s design. These recommendations would give further assurance of building quality and reduce reliance on the building consent authority.

Recommendations


We recommend that:

  1. Building consent applications for:
    • buildings in importance levels 3, 4 and 5 in Table 3.2 of AS/NZS 1170.0:2002;
    • commercial buildings comprising three or more storeys; and
    • residential buildings comprising three or more storeys with three or more household units
    should be accompanied by a Structural Design Features Report, which describes the key elements of the design, including the foundations and gravity and lateral load resisting elements.
  2. A structural Chartered Professional Engineer should be engaged at the same time as the architect for the design of a complex building.
  3. After consideration of the Structural Design Features Report, the building consent authority should decide whether or not the structure should be regarded as complex.
  4. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should develop criteria to be applied in determining whether a structure is complex, in consultation with the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand, the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, the New Zealand Geotechnical Society and other relevant groups, including building consent authorities. When developed, the criteria should be given regulatory force.
  5. If the structure is determined to be not complex, the engineer who provided the Structural Design Features Report should certify the structural integrity of the building’s design.
  6. If the structure is determined to be complex, a Recognised Structural Engineer should be required to certify the structural integrity of the design.
  7. On receipt of the building consent application, the building consent authority should decide:
    • whether it has the staff with the appropriate competency (qualifications and experience) to process the application in-house (including any decision as to whether the structure is complex and whether any additional peer review certified by a Recognised Structural Engineer should be required); or
    • whether it needs to refer the application to another building consent authority that has the staff with the appropriate competency (qualifications and experience) to process the application.

We have also reviewed the leadership structures within the building sector, as they relate to the matters we are concerned with, and consider that the role of Chief Engineer within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should be strengthened and supported with additional capability.

Recommendations


We recommend that:

  1. The role of Chief Engineer should be renamed Chief Structural Engineer to reflect a greater focus on the structure of complex buildings and should be further strengthened and supported with additional capability.
  2. The Chief Structural Engineer should have the statutory power to collect consent applications for complex structures (as part of the Policy and Regulatory Work Programme in Recommendations 173 and 174 below) for the purpose of analysing trends, identifying issues and risks, and sharing knowledge with the building and construction sector.
  3. The Engineering Advisory Group should continue as an ongoing function to provide expert advice to the Chief Structural Engineer.
  4. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should consult with learned societies, such as the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, the New Zealand Geotechnical Society and the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand, about the ongoing membership of the Engineering Advisory Group. The membership of the Group should always include senior practising structural engineers.

We discuss the role of Standards in New Zealand’s “performance-based” regulatory system and note that the suite of Standards supporting the Building Code plays a vital role in ensuring our buildings are designed well and built well. We have concluded that these Standards should be regularly reviewed and updated.

Recommendations


We recommend that:

  1. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should develop, lead and fund a Policy and Regulatory Work Programme in consultation with the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, the New Zealand Construction Industry Council, Standards New Zealand, the Building Research Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Geotechnical Society, the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering and the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand.
  2. The Policy and Regulatory Work Programme should identify the priorities for the development, review and update of compliance documents and Standards, and define the status of compliance documents and guidance material. Work relating to Standards prioritised for update as part of the Policy and Regulatory Work Programme should be funded as part of the work programme.
  3. Standards referenced in the Building Code should be available online, free of charge.
  4. The Policy and Regulatory Work Programme should be the responsibility of the Chief Structural Engineer.
  5. A communications plan should be developed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to communicate the Policy and Regulatory Work Programme and ensure information is effective, and targeted for different participants in the sector. There should be clarity about the status of information provided to the sector; for example, whether it is a compliance document, Standard or guidance.

Section 4: Training and education of civil engineers and organisation of the civil engineering profession

In this section of our Report, we have reviewed the training and education of civil engineers and the organisation of the civil engineering profession.

International agreements underpin the nature and content of engineering education in New Zealand. The Royal Commission has heard nothing that suggests there should be a change in the structure of the Bachelor of Engineering degree. Rather, key matters for further consideration are in post-degree training and continuing education through provision of tailored block courses for those who are working, and mentoring within engineering firms.

Life safety is and should remain the paramount objective in the design and construction of buildings to resist earthquake motions. This is best achieved by having highly experienced people performing the highest risk activities. In this regard, the Royal Commission has heard proposals and views from interested parties as to the merits, issues and risks of implementing a two-tier certification system that would raise the level of training and experience required of a structural engineer who certifies engineering design plans for complex structures. We consider there is merit in this concept and recommend the creation of the role of ”Recognised Structural Engineer” for these purposes (see also section 3 of Volume 7 of this Report).

We have also reviewed the competence requirements against which engineers are assessed for registration as a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng). We recommend the introduction of an additional competence measure against which every structural engineer must be assessed – “a good knowledge of the fundamental requirements of structural design and of the fundamental behaviour of structural elements subjected to seismic actions”.

Recommendations


We recommend that:

  1. The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (as the Registration Authority) should publish on the Chartered Professional Engineer register information about a Chartered Professional Engineer’s area of practice, and any other information that may further inform consumers of engineering services of the competence of individual engineers, under section 18(1)(d) of the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act 2002.
  2. There should be ongoing provision of post-graduate continuing education for engineers through the provision of block courses, mentoring within engineering firms and courses suitable for those who are working.
  3. The universities of Auckland and Canterbury should pursue ways of increasing the structural and geotechnical knowledge of civil engineers entering the profession.
  4. Legislation should provide for Recognised Structural Engineers to be responsible for the certification of the design of complex buildings as described in Recommendations 162–168.
  5. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should develop prescribed qualifications and competencies for “Recognised Structural Engineers” in consultation with the Chartered Professional Engineers Council, the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering. These prescribed qualifications and competencies should be a more specific prescription of the qualifications and competencies of the role, and require more extensive design experience of the type required for the design of complex structures than that required for a Chartered Professional Engineer. These should be included in an appropriate regulation.

Members of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) are required to act in accordance with the IPENZ Code of Ethics, and Chartered Professional Engineers (CPEng) are bound to a Code of Ethical Conduct. Both codes are identical in the obligations they impose on the registered engineers. The key matters of interest to the Royal Commission have been the clauses governing the requirement not to misrepresent competence (IPENZ clause 4 and CPEng rule 46) and the obligations to report buildings and structures that place the public’s health and safety at risk (IPENZ clause 11 and CPEng rule 53). We consider that reviewing structural engineers should have a clearly expressed ethical duty to disclose the existence of a critical structural weakness, in a process which protects them from any liability where they have acted in good faith.

Recommendations


We recommend that:

  1. The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand should provide clarification of its codes of ethics, in respect of the following matters:
    • the test for taking action should be well understood by engineers – i.e. ensuring public health and safety;
    • each clause in the codes of ethics stands alone and no one clause can override another. In the case of a perceived conflict between two or more clauses, the question as to which clause should carry most weight in the circumstances presented should be a carefully considered matter of judgement; and
    • reporting obligations of engineers when a structure has been identified that presents a risk to health and safety. There should be clarity as to the point at which an obligation of a reviewing engineer to report is extinguished, and where the accountability for addressing the matter and rectifying any weaknesses rests.
  2. Part 3, clause 6 of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Code of Ethics and Rule 48 of the Chartered Professional Engineers Rules of New Zealand (No 2) 2002 should be amended to provide for an obligation to advise the relevant territorial authority and the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand in circumstances where a structural weakness has been discovered that gives rise to a risk to health and safety.

A particular feature of the engineering profession is the existence of learned societies dedicated to particular fields of engineering practice. Membership of the individual societies largely consists of engineers practising within the society’s particular field, although many engineers are multi-disciplinary and are therefore members of more than one society.

These learned societies include the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand (SESOC), New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE), New Zealand Concrete Society (NZCS), New Zealand Geotechnical Society (NZGS), New Zealand Timber Design Society Incorporated, Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ), the Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA) and others.

The work undertaken by the societies’ members includes both contributing to formal processes for reviewing and updating New Zealand Building Standards, and issuing guidance on best-practice for the profession and industry, some of which is paid work but much of which is not. Society members also contribute technical papers for conference proceedings and provide guidance on best-practice to industry. Processes in which guidance is given are informal, and do not pass through the scrutiny of a regulatory review process: the best-practice advice is not formalised as legal requirements, and therefore may or may not be utilised or taken into account by practitioners.

There are risks in the informal component of this approach. These include whether the necessary expertise will remain available on a voluntary basis to enable the process to continue over time, and the absence of an objective process that tests the content and assesses the consequences of the best-practice guidance by formal regulatory review. Assessment of consequences would include examining the costs of the best-practice standards and requirements to determine value in the context of the risks being managed. In addition, without any formal recognition, the adoption of the recommended best- practices is difficult to monitor and cannot be enforced. This makes it unlikely that they will be consistently applied by practitioners.

As discussed above, we consider that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) should develop a policy and regulatory work programme to identify priorities and clarify roles. In doing this work, MBIE should consult with the engineering profession’s learned societies as to where best-practice guidance is required, and the appropriate process for achieving it, including the need to codify any parts of the advice into regulations or Standards, and whether the issues should be led by the regulator, or left to the societies.

The professional and learned societies play an important role in facilitating information sharing, debate, and problem resolution across the various disciplines within the engineering profession. Of particular interest to the Royal Commission is the need for collaboration between structural and geotechnical engineers. The societies also endeavour at times to bring engineers together with other intersecting professions within the construction industry (for example, constructors, manufacturers and architects).

The Royal Commission considers there is a reasonable level of constructive engagement between the different branches of engineering. However, there is scope for more constructive, and early, collaboration between architects and engineers.

Recommendation


We recommend that:

  1. The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Architects, and the New Zealand Registered Architects Board, supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, should work together to ensure greater collaboration and information sharing between architects and structural engineers.

Section 5: Canterbury Regional Council and Christchurch City Council – management of earthquake risk

As part of our Inquiry into the Canterbury earthquakes, we considered it would be inappropriate to ignore entirely the fact there has been unnecessary damage and costs sustained as a result of the development of land subject to a risk of liquefaction without duly considering that risk. Apart from anything else, an understanding of how that has been possible under the existing regulatory system might enable better outcomes in the future.

As a result of our Inquiry into these matters, we conclude that there should be better provision for the acknowledgment of earthquake and liquefaction risk in the various planning instruments that are made under the Resource Management Act 1991. One way of minimising the failure of buildings in the future is to ensure that the land on which they are developed is suitable for the purpose. Having said that, we need to emphasise that it is not possible to predict with any certainty when an earthquake will occur and, in reality, the public and private investment in the country’s cities is such that it is not realistic to redirect development from the existing central business districts. However, when zoning for new development areas is in contemplation, we consider that it would be appropriate for the risks of liquefaction and lateral spreading to be taken into account.

Recommendations


We recommend that:

  1. Sections 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act 1991 should be amended to ensure that regional and district plans (including the zoning of new areas for urban development) are prepared on a basis that acknowledges the potential effects of earthquakes and liquefaction, and to ensure that those risks are considered in the processing of resource and subdivision consents under the Act.
  2. Regional councils and territorial authorities should ensure that they are adequately informed about the seismicity of their regions and districts. Since seismicity should be considered and understood at a regional level, regional councils should take a lead role in this respect, and provide policy guidance as to where and how liquefaction risk ought to be avoided or mitigated. In Auckland, the Auckland Council should perform these functions.
  3. Applicants for resource and subdivision consents should be required to undertake such geotechnical investigations as may be appropriate to identify the potential for liquefaction risk, lateral spreading or other soil conditions that may contribute to building failure in a significant earthquake. Where appropriate, resource and subdivision consents should be subject to conditions requiring land improvement to mitigate these risks.
  4. The Ministry for the Environment should give consideration to the development of guidance for regional councils and territorial authorities in relation to the matters referred to in Recommendations 186–188.

Volume 5: Section 1: Summary and recommendations – Volumes 5–7 (Part 2)        Return to part 1 <