A report into the seismic resilience of hospital buildings in Aotearoa New Zealand has revealed that 87% of assessed hospital buildings are rated above the threshold used to measure if a structure is earthquake prone.

The report, initially commissioned by the Ministry of Health, is the first centrally collated national view of information about the seismic risk of hospital buildings across the motu and outlines the steps to be taken by Te Whatu Ora to manage seismic risk in the future.

“This is a positive finding, but we are in no way being complacent about our responsibility to invest in, design, and build infrastructure that will provide the safest environments possible for our healthcare workers, patients and their whānau in the event of an earthquake, as well as continue to provide a healthcare response post-event,” says Fepulea’i Margie Apa, Te Whatu Ora Chief Executive.

“Now we can take a national look at the seismic performance of our health infrastructure, we can also formulate a strategy to identify where buildings are not rating as high as we would like and form a management strategy to prioritise and carry out mitigation works were needed.”

The report provides an insight into the seismic risk profile of two-thirds of New Zealand’s hospital buildings already assessed and lays out several recommendations to improve the way these risks are managed. 

The remaining one-third of the estate includes newer buildings, where the expectation is a high New Building Standard (NBS) rating, or minor buildings not housing clinical services. Work is already underway to implement a programme of assessment for these buildings.

The report, which was released by Te Whatu Ora today, also provides several recommendations for the identification and management of seismic risk in the future.

A work programme has been stood up to support these recommendations and includes the following priorities:

  1. Updating the seismic information held about all public hospital buildings including obtaining information about those buildings not yet assessed.
  2. Preparing a Seismic Policy and Seismic Risk Management Strategy.
  3. Preparing technical guidelines that establish seismic performance objectives and associated design criteria.
  4. Implementing priority agreements with seismic engineers to ensure an effective post-earthquake response.

The Seismic Policy recommended by the report has been prepared in draft and will be distributed around the regions and to other relevant organisational areas for consultation before release. This policy defines the standard national process for evaluating the risk, making occupancy decisions, and communicating them. 

“While a low NBS rating may concern people, recently published guidance from MBIE has clarified that there is no need for alarm or immediate action. The life safety risk is still very low, as the seismic assessments of hospital buildings are extremely robust with the criteria for acute services buildings representing earthquakes only likely to occur once in 2,500 years,” says Margie Apa. 

“However, ensuring our buildings are safe for Te Whatu Ora staff and patients is always a top priority, and it is important that we do have a policy in place to develop resilient hospital buildings, not only during a seismic event, but in terms of functionality afterwards. 

A total of 31 IL4 buildings have received an assessment below the 34% New Building Standard (NBS) threshold.

Of these, 11 are clinical services buildings (1 in a high-risk seismic zone, 8 in a medium risk seismic zone and 2 in a low-risk zone). The rest house support services such as laundries, mortuaries or plant.

In all 11 cases, a mitigation response is underway, with business cases being prepared for 10 and construction underway for the eleventh.

Pātiki and Waharua Kōpito patterns

Download the report

The technical report and a summary are available to download.