The whole issue of “Leaky Buildings” seems to be a far more important topic up in Auckland than it is in Wellington, but there’s no reason to be smug. Outside the Auckland cities, Wellington is high on the list:
Auckland City Council………….2021
North Shore City Council………..445
Waitakere City Council…………..352
Manukau City Council……………125
Wellington City Council………….361
Christchurch City Council……….229
Dunedin City Council………………..2

Obviously there’s just quality building and architecture in Dunedin! The question over who has to pay is important for the whole country – you can see why perhaps people in Dunedin can well think that the issue should be paid for by Councils rather than by the Government (ie the average taxpayer). I’m always amazed when newspaper articles say that the rebuild cost is $300,000 for some Auckland apartment – when surely that must be more than the cost to completely tear down and rebuild that apartment. Arguably we should just put a bulldozer through vast swathes of Auckland, especially up round the Newton Gully / Kyber Pass / Newmarket area, where acres and indeed hectares of unmitigated crap apartments exist cheek by jowel (or buttock by buttock may be a more apt simile).

If you are interested in finding out more about the subject of Why Buildings Leak, there is an excellent article on the Not-PC blogsite. In fact, it’s a series of three articles – and we’re still waiting for the third one. But at this stage, here is the first and here is the second. If your building is leaking, this article gives a very good summary, and has some excellent and lively commentary after – read the comments. The PC in question is an Auckland architect called Peter Cresswell, and his blog is the 4th most popular in New Zealand, with about 1650 visits per day (we’re a long way behind, at about the 78th most popular). I have no idea how he manages to run an architectural practice as well as be a prolific blogger – anyhow, the articles are very well written.

Paraphrasing the articles, PC heaps the blame squarely on the shoulders of the former head of the former BIA – Bill Porteous, and goes on to note:

“Everybody was happy – or at least was prepared to be happy because the process set up by Mr Porteous was working and all these materials had all the necessary ticks from all the nice bureaucrats who had your best interests at heart. And so everyone set off in complete confidence to build the slums of tomorrow.

* Registered architects designed Harditex buildings with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie and approved by BRANZ.
* Master builders built Harditex buildings with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie and approved by BRANZ.
* Building suppliers were told by both Carters and Fletchers to substitute dryframe for treated timber – and everybody was happy, because Mr Porteous’s regime had declared it to be safe.
* Building inspectors inspected Harditex buildings built with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie, and were happy with the work – and delighted that all the details were approved by BRANZ.
* And home-owners bought Harditex buildings built with dryframe using details supplied by James Hardie and approved by BRANZ.

And everybody was happy. But they’re not so happy nowadays.

The problem wasn’t cowboys or lack of registered or qualified professionals. Cowboys built a few of the buildings that failed, but cowboys will always be with use, and they weren’t the cause of the 7,571 failures, or of the systemic problems that caused them. Good builders and good architects relied on the process and in good faith they built and designed buildings that failed. In fact master builders and registered architects built and designed buildings all over the country that failed – one I’m trying to fix now was designed by a president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, drawn up the son of a former architecture school Dean and built in good faith by registered master builders.

It still failed.”


Part Two gets stuck in even more, noting more excellent discussion under the headings:

1. Working from the neck up?
We share the stud-frame technology I’ve described here only with North America and with parts of Scandinavia, and our own methods are largely unique to us. So it’s moderately unusual, and for the most part the skills for it need to be learned here. That’s one point…

2. Timber not worth the name
The studs inside your wall changed. Since the fifties your studs have mostly been built from plantation radiata pine, but two things changed recently to change what that meant….

3. Silicone
Silicone isn’t just popular in Hollywood, it’s been all the rage on New Zealand building sites for the last twenty years…..

4. Stuff the wall cavities
Live in an older New Zealand house in winter, and pretty soon you’ll complain about the draughts. Newer New Zealand houses don’t have the draughts because they have insulation in the walls…..

5. Those aftermarket add-ons
Increasing wealth means increasing add-ons to the outside of your home. Fancy installing Sky TV? An awning or two? A new pergola? …..

6. Those dedicated followers of fashion
‘Tuscany’ is in. At least, it was. Tastes have changed very quickly now, but for a while there faux Tuscan was de rigeur. But Tuscany itself has a very different climate and totally different construction methods…..

7. From building paper to no building paper!
None of the changes mentioned so far would have been fatal on their own. If water got in, it should have been protected by the building paper. If the building paper was badly installed in some few places, it still would have protected the home-owner in every other place…..

Go there and read it now. And then read the comments underneath. They don’t hold back…. who said that architects won’t comment on blogs!

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