Towards a New Delivery Approach to Improve the Performance of Non-Structural Elements in New Zealand
Observations made in past earthquakes, in New Zealand and around the world, have highlighted the vulnerability of non-structural elements such as facades, ceilings, partitions and services. Damage to these elements can be life-threatening or jeopardise egress routes but typically, the main concern is the cost and time associated with repair works. The Insurance Council of New Zealand highlighted the substantial economic losses in recent earthquakes due to poor performance of non-structural elements. Previous inspections and research have attributed the damage to non-structural elements principally to poor coordination, inadequate or lack of seismic restraints and insufficient clearances to cater for seismic actions. Secondary issues of design responsibility, procurement and the need for better alignment of the various Standards have been identified. In addition to the compliance issues, researchers have also demonstrated that current code provisions for non-structural elements, both in New Zealand and abroad, may be inadequate. This paper first reviews the damage observed against the requirements of relevant Standards and the New Zealand Building Code, and it appears that, had the installations been compliant, the cost of repair and business interruption would have been substantially less. The second part of the paper highlights some of the apparent shortcomings with the current design process for non-structural elements, points towards possible alternative strategies and identifies areas where more research is deemed necessary. The challenge of improving the seismic performance of non-structural elements is a complex one across a diverse construction industry. Indications are that the New Zealand construction industry needs to completely rethink the delivery approach to ensure an integrated design, construction and certification process. The industry, QuakeCentre, QuakeCoRE and the University of Canterbury are presently working together to progress solutions. Indications are that if new processes can be initiated, better performance during earthquakes will be achieved while delivering enhanced building and business resilience.