Strengthening school buildings for earthquake resilience

Strengthening work on school buildings reduces their seismic risk. As a board of trustees, you can usually plan for it as part of other upgrades or modernisation work. Although timber-framed buildings present a lower risk, you can still take measures to improve their performance.

Strengthening earthquake-prone buildings

If you are thinking about undertaking strengthening work on buildings at your school, please contact your property advisor.

Although timber-framed buildings present a lower risk and do not require assessment as part of the earthquake resilience (EQR) programme, you can still take measures to improve their performance. The best time to do this is when undertaking other upgrades or modernisation work at your school. Find out more about timber-framed school buildings’ earthquake resilience.

If buildings are assessed as earthquake prone, and require urgent strengthening work, we will make a decision about whether to strengthen the building to:

  • above 34% of the New Building Standard (NBS) immediately so the building is not earthquake prone, and further strengthen to above 67% of the NBS at a later stage, or
  • above 67% of the NBS straight away.

For information on the Government’s policy on managing earthquake-prone buildings, go to managing earthquake-prone buildings (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website) (external link) .

Strengthening buildings that are below 67% of the NBS but not earthquake prone

If a seismic assessment shows that you have a building that is not earthquake prone but is below 67% of the NBS, you should plan strengthening work on it when doing other upgrades or modernisation work.

When planning major projects with a designer/engineer, refer them to the design levels of earthquake resilience of school buildings page.

Replacing rather than strengthening buildings

If strengthening and repair costs for a building are high, we may decide to replace the building instead. Before making this decision, we consider:

  • the cost of repair against the cost of rebuild
  • whether you have surplus buildings
  • how important the building is in the schooling network
  • your roll projections.

Other types of seismic mitigation

Replacing heavy tile roofs

Replacing heavy tile roofs with lighter materials significantly reduces:

  • the risk to life in major earthquakes
  • the level of damage likely in a moderate earthquake.

Most schools with heavy roofs were identified during the 1998 national structural survey of schools. In most cases, the roofs have been replaced and specific structural strengthening has been completed.

If you have a heavy tile roof, we recommend you replace it as soon as possible. Tiles can be replaced with lighter roof material.

Window/glazing safety

Use safety glass for glazing. If safety glass has not been used, we recommend applying film or some other means of retaining the glass to avoid injury if broken.

For more information, go to glass installed in school buildings.

Funding for strengthening work

You need to pay for strengthening work using your 5 Year Agreement (5YA) funding. Unless the work is urgent, schedule this work for the same time as other upgrade or modernisation work on the building.

For buildings owned partly by the board and partly by the Ministry, use 5YA funding pro-rata to fix the Ministry-owned portion.

To pay for strengthening work on board-owned buildings, use non-Ministry funds, such as from fundraising or grants.

Go to board-funded property projects for more information.

If your school does not have enough 5YA funding

If your school does not have enough 5YA funding to pay for the strengthening required, you may be able to get:

  • Budget Plus funding, which you can apply for if you know about the need for strengthening work before your 5YA is signed off and this work will cost more than 50% of your 5YA budget
  • Unforeseen Work funding, which you can apply for if you find out about the need for this work after your 5YA is signed off and you don’t have enough funds left. You will also have to commit all your remaining 5YA funds to the project. 

Christchurch schools

Different rules apply for schools that are part of the Christchurch Schools Rebuild Programme. The 5YA funding has been frozen for these schools while the programme is underway.

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