Construction errors may have been responsible for the collapse of the Christchurch CTV building (killing 115 people)

Last update: February 24, 2012 at 10:55 am by By

Overview of the articles we have written on the New Zealand earthquake

One year after the quake, a technical report on the deadly collapse of the Canterbury Television building has revealed what caused the structure to fail in last February’s magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch New Zealand.

The collapse killed 115 people, including 65 foreign students.

The report found the CTV building did not comply with the building code when it was first built in 1986.
Three critical factors were found that contributed to the building’s collapse:
- Intense horizontal ground shaking.
- Lack of ductility in the columns, making them brittle.
- Asymmetrical layout of the shear walls, making the building twist during the earthquake, placing extra strain on the columns.

Labour  Party earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said the report’s conclusions were “devastating”. “The report has revealed that the building was not built to codea devastating finding, considering the collapse of this building was responsible for more than 60 per cent of the deaths in the earthquake,” she said.

Image courtesy halfdone.wordpress.com

Full Press report from the New Zealand Government

Image courtesy Shelby-dog

Intense ground shaking, non-ductile columns and the asymmetrical layout of shear walls were the critical factors contributing to the collapse of the CTV building during the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, a Department of Building and Housing technical investigation has found.
The Government ordered the investigation in March 2011, along with investigations into the failure of the Pyne Gould Corporation, Forsyth Barr, and Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings, following the 22 February 2011 6.3 magnitude earthquake, which claimed the lives of 184 people, including 115 in the CTV building.
The Department of Building and Housing established a group of leading engineering consultants to conduct the investigations, which were peer reviewed by an expert review panel, chaired by construction law expert Sherwyn Williams.
The comprehensive investigations included eye witness accounts, photographs, site examinations, sampling and testing of materials, structural analysis and testing of various hypotheses using established engineering models.
The investigation into the 1986 CTV building was conducted by Hyland Consultants and StructureSmith.
Three critical factors were found that contributed to the building’s collapse:
    – Intense horizontal ground shaking.
    – Lack of ductility in the columns, making them brittle.
    – Asymmetrical layout of the shear walls, making the building twist during the earthquake, placing extra strain on the columns.

The ductility of the columns (and strength) and the asymmetrical layout of the shear walls were found to have not met the building standards of the day (1986).

Other factors that may have contributed to the CTV collapse included:
    – Low concrete strengths in some of the critical columns.
    – Exceptionally high vertical ground movement.
    – Possible interaction of columns and concrete spandrel panels (on the external face of the building), making the columns less flexible.
    – Separation of floor slabs from the north core of the building.
    – Structural influence of the concrete masonry walls, making lower floors more rigid than upper floors, which placed additional stress on the upper columns during the earthquake.

Although it is not possible to be definitive on the sequence of the building’s collapse, the common denominator in all collapse scenarios identified by the Expert Panel was the failure of one or more columns on the east face of the building. This is consistent with eye-witness accounts of the building during the earthquake.

Current building requirements are more stringent now than in the 1980s when the CTV building was constructed. Standards have progressively improved over time as more is understood about how buildings respond in earthquakes.

Department of Building and Housing Chief Executive, Katrina Bach, said the Department has already taken action on some of the Expert Panel’s recommendations, and will implement the others working with the building and construction sector and local government over the coming months and years.

Image courtesy Shelby-dog

“The findings of the investigations and the learnings from 22 February will make a difference to the way the buildings are designed and constructed in the future – both in New Zealand and internationally.” Ms Bach said the technical investigation would inform the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission of Inquiry.

“Copies of the Expert Panel report have been provided to the Police and the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand for their consideration and action as appropriate.”
Ms Bach said she expected Territorial Authorities (councils) to take close notice of the reports as they developed there own programs of work to address earthquake risks.

She also encouraged property owners and building users to seek information about the standard of their buildings.

Thanks to ER reader Lee from Christchurch for attracting our attention and courtesy to use his pictures.
Full report courtesy the New Zealand Department for building and housing.

Earthquake-report.com adds the additional disclaimer that ground motions seen in Christchurch were in many cases above the expected code ground motions, thus it would have been very difficult to build to such standards.

Image courtesy Shelby-dog

Update February 22, 2012

Memorial services are being held across  Christchurch, and New Zealand, tomorrow to remember those who died in the 22 February 2011 Earthquake. The public commemorative events are to mark the first anniversary of the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake in which 185 people died.
8am-8.45am, Latimer Square
A service focused towards the families of those lost and first responders. Members of the public can view the service on a large screen.
12 noon-1.30pm, North Hagley Park
A public event for the whole community, this service includes musical accompaniment from Christchurch school children, the reading of the names of the 185 lost and an observance of two minutes’ silence at 12.51pm.
Christchurch Earthquake Awards – 2pm-4pm, North Hagley Park
This is a public event for the whole community where we recognize the earthquake heroes.

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