So – the worst kept secret in Wellington is out at last – Defence Force’s HQ, Freyberg House, is to be demolished. It’s perhaps no great surprise to those in the industry, who have heard the rumours before now, but it is sure to be a bit of a shock to many Wellingtonians. There is, of course, another building that will probably also have to come down – but the statistical probability of me saying what building that is, is just too high.
But it is fair enough that Wellingtonians get upset about this forthcoming demolition – these are new buildings after all, just a decade old, and therefore are, broadly speaking, the same system as other modern buildings are being built today. In short: the public will (or already has?) lose faith in the ability of architects and especially engineers, to provide a decent stable structural solution. We (arch and eng both) will get castigated for the failing of Freyberg House – and rightly so.
The building looks untouched from the outside. The precast cladding panels and double glazed windows are still in impeccable condition. There are a few cracked tiles in one corner, and a disturbing lump in the pavement up the street opposite, and the blinds are all drawn, but you wouldn’t really know a thing was wrong with the building otherwise.
You would be wrong. Inside, apparently, there is a scene of devastation – and it wasn’t until today that I heard the real reason why. I had thought that maybe, like a few other recent buildings in town, the services in the ceiling had collapsed and brought the ceiling tiles down on top of the desks, setting off the sprinklers etc, but we heard today a quite startling thing that had happened – that it had fallen off its base isolation.
I’m staggered on two points – one, that it was base isolated in the first place (why wasn’t I informed of this?!?) but secondly – that a building could actually “jump off” it’s base isolated foundations!
I’m not sure whether I believe either of those stories – but it may explain the odd lump in the pavement to the north. If, indeed, the building had base isolation, then that may explain why the footpath was a bit mashed up – the building was swaying to a different rhythm than the earth. Pounding, in effect, very low down. But also : if the building was in fact base isolated then this could also explain what happened – there wasn’t an adequate movement joint installed around the edge of the building and so when the building swayed on its rubber piles, it effectively ran into a solid wall and battered itself off its own feet. It was, literally, left defenseless.
This is not a good state for any building to be in – and I can’t wait to read the official report, which was to have been released but is now delayed till April. Of course, there must be more to it than that. Do you know what it is? Tell me more !!!
The Stuff report is here:
Nothing about base isolators , but a whole lot of juicy background is still blowing round the internet if you look in the right places,
When Xigo personnel took over as project manager in 2003, much of the initial design work had been completed and resource consents were in place. The first challenge was to get up to speed with existing documents as quickly as possible. There was a lot of â€œhistoryâ€ to catch up on in a short period.At the time Xigo personnel came on board, no formal contracts were in place with the designers and contractors. They had commenced work on informal agreements, so contracts had to be finalised with all parties â€“ the developer AMP Capital Investors, design/build contractors Mainzeal Construction, CCM Architects, structural engineering company Romulus (now Aurecon) and services engineering firm Beca.”
So the design/build contractor was mainzeal, and it has a car park on the lower levels,
I don’t know much about the building, but I can’t really say that I’ll miss its presence within the streetscape.
PS – I notice it hasn’t disappeared from the CCM website yet.
Rather delightfully, the opening of the paragraph that describes the architects’ response to the brief begins with the words: “Built to high seismic and security standards…”
Well, it certainly was built to high standards – but maybe those standards are now going to be revised? Romulus (Aurecon) are really good engineers – and I’d say that there is nothing wrong with the engineering of the building, but you have to remember that the Kaikoura quake fell way outside what was expected from a quake. It was a most unusual event – or series of events actually – and the standard curve of expected seismic movement that the engineers design to was exceeded.
What I do think may come out of the much awaited report on these buildings is going to be a damning indictment on the precast floors slab industry – or a further move towards steel structures in buildings. Watch this space.
Curiously this sentence did not appear in the print edition of the DomPost today, although it was on the Stuff web version yesterday:
“News that the building is coming down has long been expected, amid suggestions Defence House effectively jumped off the base isolation system designed to keep it safe in an earthquake.”
So – is it true or not?
I have had from good sources that it was NOT a base isolated building
Base isolators = #fakenews? ;)
Thanks Greenwelly and Seamonkey – yes, that fits with my own recollections as well – no base isolators. So – it hasn’t got rubber johns on its piles, and it hasn’t jumped off them then. The pavement at one side is munted / squashed up, which however does indicate quite a bit of movement even at ground floor, which is unusual.
My pick though, would be cracks in the precast floor beams, possibly similar to what happened with Stats (allegedly). That would be a bugger to repair.
Nothing is impossible to repair, obviously, but sometimes it is just easier to start all over again, and in this case the repair bill sounds like it was getting higher, and the tenant’s confidence in a repaired building most likely getting lower. What will be really interesting is to see if the new building is the same / similar to the old building.
Same structural solution? – I think not.
Same facade panels? – Could easily do so, but perhaps it may also be a chance to pass up on that and go new.
Same architects? – dunno.
Same engineers? – dunno, but I gotta say: probably not.
Same tenant? – eventually, yes….
It’s not just Donal Drumpf who is having problems with the Russians at present.
Presently, caught in our Spam filter, we have an onslaught of Russian Spam.
I’m not sure exactly why they are targeting our southern website, but clearly they are recognising the enormous influence of the Eye of the Fish on world politics. Glad to be of service!
If anyone can figure out what is being said here, please tell me!
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Oh – hideous. Nasty sex. Don’t go there!
A view of Wellington’s quakes from the “Not PC” website of Peter Cresswell. Worth reading, especially about the Wellington buildings he noted damage on.
It’s interesting that the Defense are claiming they are NOT going to demolish the building, but instead are just going to “Deconstruct” the building. Either Defense have got all coy and PC about things, and can’t use the proper word any more – or maybe they actually are going to carefully pull the precast facade panels etc off and store them offsite, ready for reuse on a new building?
Pretty sure that they used “deconstruction” to descibe what happened to 61 molesworth street and the Reading Car Park,
That big machine will munch the Defence building just the same… call it what you like…
Greenwelly – yes, well, sometimes people do this thing we call “lying” and that is a prime example of it. The Car Park and the Molesworth St building were both 100% straight out “demolished”. There wasn’t a single trace of deconstruction about it. People telling lies need to be confronted, and told: You lie.
I’m still hopeful that Defense may be in reality, deconstructed. But really, there is only one building that you would ever maybe want to use the same panels on again. No point taking them off carefully if they are just going to be thrown away.
“White lies”. The lie you tell when you don’t quite want to tell the full truth.
Regardless – is the look of the building something that should be kept? or got rid of? it may be only a decade old, but I’ve yet to hear anyone say that they like it…