Statistics House building 'could have caused fatalities' in Kaikoura earthquake

The government's ordered urgent inspections on eighty multi-storey buildings nationwide, after an investigation into a quake-damaged Wellington building.

The performance of Wellington's Statistics House in the Kaikōura earthquake was "unacceptable" and "could have caused fatalities," Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

An independent panel investigated the building after it suffered serious structural damage in magnitude 7.8 November quake, causing the partial-collapse of three lower level floors. 

More than 500 Statistics NZ staff worked in the building, which was built in 2005, as well as staff from other government departments. 

Stats House Level 1 after the quake (supplied)
Stats House Level 1 after the quake (supplied)

Dr Smith says design standards and building laws will be reviewed, and similarly designed buildings will need to be followed up through councils and engineering companies. This has already been done in Wellington following the quake but will need to happen in other areas across the country.

He says the Statistics building's design flaw is specific to "highly ductile framed concrete buildings with pre-cast floor slabs and particularly those with multi bay frames."

Statistics House (Newshub)
Statistics House (Newshub)

"The Government will amend the Concrete Structures Standard to ensure that newly designed buildings can cope with beam elongation during earthquakes of long duration.

"This quake was large and unusually long but a modern building like Statistics House should not have had life-threatening structural damage. 

"The building was designed to the industry practice of the time but this did not fully account for the effects of beam elongation during an earthquake, an issue that was deficient in the Concrete Structures Standard at the time of the design."