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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Forbes magazine - Post-quake inspections can mislead (Christchurch)

Forbes magazines website Forbes.com has an Associated Press article on how Christchurch's post-quake inspections (Red, Yellow and Green placards), and the rapid assessment process that produced them, led to misunderstandings about building safety.

The article discusses how the rapid system arose (California), how its application can be misunderstood, and where to from here. The discussion is done in the context of the CTV and PGC buildings (both of which were green-stickered).

Some excerpts from the article, which is here:
Inspection reports obtained by The Associated Press under New Zealand public records laws show just how cursory the checks can be.
The problem: People place more faith in the inspections than they should. A green sticker is no indication a building will withstand future quakes, nor does it require a robust analysis of a building's structural health - something that was misunderstood by both building occupants and public officials in Christchurch.
Comments made after the February disaster indicate how much trust was placed in these rapid assessments. For instance, Christchurch Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button told The Australian newspaper that the CTV building had been "inspected by our engineers and declared safe."
Representatives from both buildings told the AP that after the first quake, they commissioned engineering examinations, which concluded the buildings were sound. They wouldn't let the AP review copies of the reports.
The experience may serve as a wake-up call for cities from Tokyo to Athens that rely on the system. California officials have told the AP they plan to make improvements after reviewing what happened in Christchurch, and those changes will likely set the tone for the rest of the world.
An interesting point made in the article by the overseer of the CEMA placard system is that confusion over the meaning of the placards had not been noticed before:
Jim Barnes, who oversees the placard system for the California Emergency Management Agency, also visited Christchurch after the disaster. He said his agency is planning changes based on what was learned in Christchurch.
"We have not noticed this sort of misunderstanding with the 'Inspected' tag before, but now that it has come to light, we can see how it could happen," he wrote in an email.
Is it possible that the litigious climate in the US drives property owners to have in-depth engineering checks made while our ACC legislation creates a more laissez faire environment?
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