Engineers accused of manipulating house results

10:37 pm on 7 March 2013

Engineers who decided a red-zoned Christchurch house could be repaired have been challenged in court and accused of manipulating results to please the insurer.

Valerie and Matt O'Loughlin have taken Tower Insurance to court over its opinion their earthquake-damaged home in the suburb of Dallington can be repaired.

By government order, the retired couple have to move out of their house by July this year and say the $337,000 settlement offered by Tower is not enough to replace their home 'like for like' in a new area.

Ashley Smith, an engineer hired by Tower to review its initial assessment, told the Christchurch High Court on Thursday that the work could only be described as preliminary.

Mr Smith also admitted that the methods chosen to repair the home did not comply with industry guidelines.

Earlier, Nicholas Harwood, the engineer who wrote up the original report, admitted to rounding down test results.

The O'Loughlins' lawyer, Grant Shand, asked Mr Harwood why he rounded down the results so that they showed the ground could be re-levelled and would not require expensive foundations.

Mr Shand put it Mr Harwood that he had manufactured a result which suited Tower Insurance so it wouldn't have to pay for a more expensive rebuild.

Mr Harwood replied that he had not, and that to do so would be unethical.

On Wednesday, an engineer representing the O'Loughlins told the court that re-levelling the house would involve the expensive installation of piles.

Engineers for Tower Insurance dispute the need for piles, saying the injection of grouting into the ground could re-level it.