Rapid assessment team training 'inadequate'

6:14 pm on 5 July 2012

A US structural engineer says rapid assessment teams sent out to check Christchurch buildings for earthquake damage did not have adequate training.

The evidence has been heard at the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission which is looking into the failure of the CTV building where 115 people died when it collapsed in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011.

Structural engineer Brian Kehoe from California told the hearing that the US jurisdiction ensures there is widespread training for assessors on how to look for earthquake damage in various types of buildings.

Under questioning, Mr Kehoe said New Zealand could follow America's lead when it comes to rapid assessment of buildings following major earthquakes.

He agreed that there was a lack of training for teams carrying out these assessments on Christchurch buildings and suggested New Zealand adopt American protocols, particularly regarding un-reinforced masonry buildings.

However Mr Kehoe has said the CTV building did not need to be red-stickered following the September 2010 earthquake, because it had not been significantly damaged.

In evidence on Wednesday Mr Kehoe said engineer David Coatsworth followed protocol to the letter while assessing the CTV building.

"On the basis of Mr Coatsworth's field notes, photographs and other records, I agree with his conclusion that the damage he observed to the structure of the building was minor damage at worst and for the most part did not warrant structural repairs."

Because of this, he says further more detailed structural analysis of the building was not necessary.

Mr Coatsworth, who has 40 years experience, said he found no evidence of structural failure during a four-hour inspection of the building nearly a month after the September earthquake.

After requesting the building's structural plans and being told they were not available, Mr Coatsworth said he did not spend time tracking them down because there was no indication of any major structural damage from the outside.

Mr Kehoe says Mr Coatsworth was within his rights to give the building a green sticker without making use of the structural drawings.