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Dangerous URM façade fixes meet tight deadline

All but one of the potentially unreinforced masonry (URM) façades of 113 Wellington buildings have now been secured.

Maguire’s Building, 168-174 Cuba Street; designed by prominent Wellington architectural firm Thomas Turnbull and Son in 1900, and now well reinforced. Photo by Mark Cubey

The owners of the offending buildings have had 18 months to secure the Unreinforced Masonry (URM) elements of their buildings.

Unreinforced masonry is clay brick, concrete block or stone units bound together using lime or cement mortar, without any reinforcing elements such as steel bars.

Thirty-nine people were killed and more than 100 people injured when unreinforced masonry buildings were affected by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

“It’s a real achievement that the city has reached this milestone,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

“Three months ago, 54 building owners were still to complete their work. There’s been a concerted effort by these owners to meet this tight deadline and on behalf of the city I’d like to congratulate them for their efforts.”

Only one building owner failed to meet the deadline, though that work was due to be completed yesterday.

All building owners who met the deadline are eligible to funding support from the Government and Wellington City Council.

Wellington City Council URM Programme Manager Hayley Moselen recognised that the project was challenging, with tight deadlines. T

“The Council appreciates the determination shown by owners and everyone involved to secure these buildings,” she said.

“Over the last 18 months, Council officers have got to know these building owners and their contract teams well. They’ve all faced obstacles and unique circumstances and have pushed through these to get the work done.”

Following the Kaikōura Earthquakes in 2016, Government passed a Recovery Act which enabled councils to require owners of certain URM buildings to secure their street-facing URM parapets and facades within 12 months (from March 2017).

The deadline was later extended by six months.