Refit option for Council's earthquake prone building

Monday 5 November 2012, 9:57AM
By Gisborne District Council


What do you do when you have a building that needs to be stronger, is a rabbit warren not fit for modern workflows and there is pressure to keep a lid on spending?

That is the dilemma Gisborne District Council is facing after the 1954 building on the corner of Ormond Road and Fitzherbert Street was issued with an Earthquake Prone Building notice last year.

A building project to strengthen or rebuild was included in our Ten Year Plan with a budget of $3.5m, says Chief Executive Judy Campbell. “We had a look at where we could house staff during the building process. I didn’t want big groups scattered around the town. Our project manager Matt Feisst, looked at a temporary option to use the Council Chambers, the Committee Room and other internal spaces to house affected staff. That then raised the question – if we can do this temporarily – why can’t we do it permanently?”

“The two options originally considered were to strengthen the building and lose one third of the usable space or completely rebuild the older building to create modern, fit-for-purpose offices but only for the 40-50 staff housed there.”

“We are now looking at the Council office complex as a whole and investigating the feasibility of refitting the parts that are structurally sound and meet building standards. We would demolish the 1950’s building.”

Buildings would be remodelled to get rid of wasted space and the unworkable rabbit warrens. 

“This option looks like  saving ratepayers a large amount of money (possibly up to $2m) and means we can make Council a more welcoming place for our customers, and far more energy efficient. All staff based at Fitzherbert Street would benefit from modern, fit-for-purpose work spaces and meeting rooms. It would give us a chance to make the offices more environmentally friendly through insulation and better use of natural light. Long term it could save 25 percent of current building operation costs through energy and depreciation savings.”

This proposal would see Council and Committee meetings move to the Rose Room in Lawson Field Theatre on a permanent basis.  The Rose Room is likely to need a minor refit to make it suitable for Hearings, Council and Committee meetings which are held 3 – 4 days a month. At all other times the Rose Room would continue to be available public hireage.

The results of the feasibility study are expected by the end of the year and a decision on which option to proceed with is likely in January.

“There is no risk to people using our Customer Service Centre - that is in the newer part of the complex. However, the safety of my staff in the 1954 building is important. We have had two reports that confirm that the building is only 19% of the building code. Now we have confirmed information we must do something about it. No building owner can stand up to the scrutiny of a public enquiry like the CCTV building if they haven’t taken appropriate steps to ensure safety. Some staff will be shifting out before Christmas.”

Council’s Building Services issued an Earthquake Prone Building notice that requires Council to repair or rebuild its building by 2016. While the actual strength of the building hasn’t changed the bar has been lifted in terms of standards that must be met. It must be stronger (by 30%) than a retail building because it would be used to manage the response to a civil defence emergency.