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Saving and strengthening the Library – early access is possible, at less cost, says engineer

A packed public meeting last night heard a leading architect and a leading structural engineer insist that Wellington’s Central Library can be strengthened and reopened. And they estimated a cost considerably less than the $100million stated by Mayor Justin Lester at the weekend.


Architect Gordon Moller, noting that a million people a year used the library, said: “It has not been damaged. It can be remediated.”

He said the cost of strengthening could be half the figure of $100million quoted by Justin Lester. On the other hand, “the cost of demolishing and constructing a new building could cost twice as much.”

Moller, who is a gold medallist of the Institute of Architects and who worked on the design of Civic Square with Ian Athfield, said to demolish the library “would be to erode a fine piece of urban design and a fine piece of architecture.”

He went on: “I say it must be saved.”

Structural engineer Adam Thornton, with 40 years’ experience in multi-storey seismic design, said the hollow-core floors would be “an easy mode to repair,” by adding bracing which would be relatively straightforward to install. He said base isolation would not be complicated to add, as the library has a basement which would provide suitable space for the new technology.

Work would also be needed to strengthen the stairs, and to secure panels on the Victoria Street facade.

He estimated the total strengthening cost, including base isolators, would be $68million.

The work could be done in stages, he said, to allow for early re-entry to the library.

“The work could get underway in a couple of months, if there was the will to do it.”

Cr Iona Pannett, the last speaker, said: “We’re getting the message. People want the library re-opened as soon as possible. Politicians need to listen.” But she did not believe that the council would make a decision on the library till after the October elections. And one issue, she said, would be: “How are we going to pay for it.”

Asked if construction of the convention centre could be stopped, so that the budgetted money could instead be made available for the library, she said this would not be possible.