Media Release 29 August 2019 | CM Health’s property portfolio comprises buildings of varying age and condition and, as a result, there’s some uncertainty about whether these buildings are of a suitable standard to support planned service delivery initiatives and changes, now and in the longer term.

CM Health is actively looking at our building risks as we progress our facilities remediation programmes, and recently completed seismic assessments for a number of our facilities across the Counties Manukau region by seismic engineering experts Beca Ltd (Beca).

The Franklin Memorial Hospital, built in 1930, was the oldest building assessed and received an earthquake prone rating against the New Building Standards (%NBS) and the Importance Level (IL) of buildings. Based on a number of criteria, Beca has assessed Franklin Hospital at 30%NBS (IL3). 

A %NBS rating less than 34% is one of the criteria by which a building may be deemed to be earthquake prone. To put this into context, the strength of the building has not changed. However, building standards have; and are affecting many other public buildings such as hospitals and schools across New Zealand.

Earthquake risk 
Auckland is a low risk zone for earthquakes compared to areas such as Christchurch and Wellington, or even Hamilton; and buildings like hospitals are held to a higher standard than commercial or accommodation buildings.

The earthquake risk of an area also affects the timeframes building owners have to complete building strengthening work or demolition. For example, in high risk areas like Wellington and Christchurch, owners of priority buildings (like hospitals) that are earthquake prone have 7.5 years to strengthen or demolish compared to the same buildings in Auckland which have 35 years (and are not classed as priority buildings).

Presence of Asbestos 
In the past, asbestos was widely used in the construction industry in New Zealand, and is present in many public buildings, including hospitals and schools, particularly those built between the 1940s and 1980s.

Asbestos containing materials have been identified inside the ceiling void (where our pipes and wires are located), within Franklin Hospital.

There is no need for alarm. Intact and undisturbed asbestos material generally does not pose a health risk.

To date none of the locations being monitored in the building have exceeded the minimum level 0.01 fibres/ml (trace level).

CM Health has a responsibility to ensure all earthquake risks relating to its buildings are actively identified and managed. Please be assured that the safety of our staff, patients and visitors is of our utmost concern.

Due to the importance of this earthquake rating, and our commitment to safe working, the Board is considering all the possible options which include full strengthening, to disposing of the building and land and re-locating services.  The DHB has 35 years to make these decisions and implement.

In addition to talking to staff, patients and their families/whaanau, information posters are being developed and will be placed in all prominent places at the hospital to remind staff and visitors of the earthquake rating of the building

In the meantime, we have developed some Q&As which will provide you with greater detail.

Questions and Answers

What are the standards that buildings have to meet?
On 1 July 2017, the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Act 2016 introduced changes to the way earthquake–prone buildings (EPBs) are managed, with the introduction of a national system for managing EPBs.

The Auckland City Council Earthquake Prone Policy requires that for earthquake prone buildings we will:

  • be issued with a statutory Earthquake-Prone Building (EPB) notice, which must be displayed in a prominent place in the building
  • have the building details added to a new national register of earthquake-prone buildings
  • have 35 years from the date of the EPB notice to strengthen the building so that it is no longer earthquake-prone, or if a substantial alteration or change of use is made, strengthening of the building must be undertaken at the same time.

What is the seismic assessment for Franklin Hospital?

The Franklin Memorial Hospital, built in 1930, was assessed by seismic engineering experts Beca Ltd (Beca) and received an earthquake prone rating against the New Building Standards (%NBS) and the Importance Level (IL) of buildings. Based on a number of criteria, Beca has assessed Franklin Hospital at 30%NBS (IL3). 

A %NBS rating less than 34% is one of the criteria by which a building may be deemed to be earthquake prone. To put this into context, the strength of the building has not changed. However, building standards have; and are affecting many other public buildings such as hospitals and schools across New Zealand.

What does ‘earthquake prone’ actually mean?
Put simply, earthquake-prone buildings are those likely to collapse causing injury or death, or damage to any other property, during or following a moderate earthquake.

How likely is Auckland to have an earthquake?
No one is able to accurately predict when an earthquake will occur, or how strong it will be.

What we can say is that New Zealand is divided into three indicative earthquake zones. High risk areas include Christchurch, Wellington, Napier; moderate risk areas include New Plymouth, Hamilton and low risk areas include Dunedin, Whangarei and Auckland.

The likelihood of a large earthquake in Counties Manukau is very low compared to many other parts of the country.

What was the criteria used to determine Franklin Hospital’s rating?
This rating system is a combined risk of earthquake hazards of the surrounding area and building vulnerabilities. This means:

  • A comparison between an existing and new building with the same use on the same site that factors in the use of the building (e.g. health services, staff offices, other functions like plant rooms), and
  • the risk or importance of that use.

How are earthquake prone ratings assessed?
The minimum structural performance expectations of new buildings designed in New Zealand are set by five categories of importance levels (IL) which recognise different building functions and value to the community and consequences to life safety should they fail. For example, an IL1 building could be a small shed whereas an IL5 could be a dam.

The Franklin Hospital building is currently assessed as an IL3 structure. This corresponds to a Grade E building that is well below the minimum threshold for earthquake prone buildings.

It should be appreciated that today the hospital sets a high standard for its buildings and the IL3 benchmark is high for a building of this nature. Franklin Hospital would be a Grade D building if measured against the IL2 standard (ie still Earthquake prone).

What is CM Health doing about this problem?
Because Auckland’s earthquake risk is low, Auckland Council requires building owners to strengthen an earthquake prone building within 35 years of assessment.

CM Health has taken a responsible approach by assessing the Franklin Hospital building ahead of Auckland Council requirements. We are acting much faster than required.

Due to the importance of this earthquake rating, and our commitment to safe working, the Board is considering all the possible options which include full strengthening, to disposing of the building and land and re-locating services.  The DHB has 35 years to make these decisions and implement.

In addition to talking to staff, patients and their families/whaanau, information posters are being developed and will be placed in all prominent places at the hospital to remind staff and visitors of the earthquake rating of the building

Franklin Hospital is not the only building with earthquake problems is it?
CM Health has a responsibility to ensure all earthquake risks relating to its buildings are actively identified and managed. Given the age of many of CM Health’s buildings (average age at Middlemore Hospital is 40 years), it is likely there are other buildings with earthquake (and other) issues, for example the Galbraith building was assessed as earthquake-prone last year.

The Auckland Council estimates there are about 1800 earthquake prone buildings (EPBs) in Auckland.

CM Health’s Facilities Master Plan has prioritised investments to address the highest health service demand pressures (the Immediate Demand programme) and to fix key buildings and related infrastructure problems (the Facilities Remediation programme).

Decisions on future use of the Franklin Hospital building and how much we might spend in fixing it has an important impact on other facility developments.

How will I be kept informed of further developments?
There will be regular updates on all aspects of this work.

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