Earthquake resilience of school buildings

Access reports, research and templates that support schools to ensure their buildings are earthquake resilient.

Level of compliance Main audience Other

Required

  • Structural Engineers
  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Geotechnical Engineers
  • Territorial Authorities
  • Project Managers
  • Property Managers
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Architects

Schools are a central part of their community and often play an important role in a community’s earthquake or natural disaster response. We have undertaken significant research to inform our guidance and requirements for building new and maintaining existing school buildings, and it is important that they are followed for all school projects.

Engineering strategy group (ESG)

Our Engineering Strategy Group was established in October 2012 to provide technical leadership and oversight of our seismic resilience policy, technical design guidelines for new school buildings and ongoing work to improve the resilience of our school buildings.

Some of New Zealand’s leading engineers and industry experts with structural, seismic and geotechnical experience sit on the group. The chair of the group is Dave Brunsdon from Kestrel Group.

Earthquake resilience for new school buildings

Our Structural and Geotechnical Requirements provide guidance to reflect the special nature of schools and includes specific building performance criteria and design load requirements that designers must meet when they are designing schools. 

Earthquake resilience for existing school buildings 

Timber-frame school buildings

The majority of state school buildings are of one, or two storey, timber-frame construction. Timber-frame buildings have been proven to be resilient in recent earthquakes. Research we commissioned also found that there is low life-safety seismic risk from these buildings, as well as single storey steel-framed buildings such as many hall and gymnasium school buildings.

You can read more about our research in our research toolbox.

Assessment of school buildings

Between 2011 and 2016 we engaged engineers to manage the seismic assessment of school buildings across Aotearoa |New Zealand. The seismic assessment programmes identified buildings requiring remediation, with the remediation works subsequently prioritised based on the assessment findings and other property upgrade and refurbishment work.

There is more information in the Earthquake Resilience Programme Contextual Report [PDF, 631 KB], and guidance for undertaking new assessments is provided in the Structural and Geotechnical Requirements.

All new seismic assessments of school buildings must align with the documents detailed in the research toolbox and should be reported using our seismic assessments template.

Ongoing Earthquake Resilience Work

There is further ongoing work to improve the seismic resilience of our school buildings due to changes to building standards, legislation and specific issues that may arise that have implications on the wider portfolio. Contact your Property Advisor if you have any concerns or would like to know of any work that may be related to your school.

Project and Site Constraints Table (PSCT)

The PSCT is used by the Ministry and design teams to outline and communicate key physical, cultural, financial, and amenity project constraints and opportunities and confirm how these have been, or are to be, managed. The completed table should tell a story by communicating what the key site issues, constraints, and opportunities are and how these have influenced the design solution.

We expect that the PSCT will be continuously updated to reflect all known information. The PSCT must be used from the outset of all large Ministry managed infrastructure projects. It will also be useful for boards of trustees managing projects at their schools. 

Tools and Documents

Design of new school buildings
Download Notes
Structural and Geotechnical Requirements The updated structural and geotechnical requirements set out our requirements for the structural and geotechnical aspects of designing new school buildings
Design Features Report [In Development] We have developed a Design Features Report template engineers must use to capture the key considerations and design methods they’ve used to meet our requirements and building code requirements

Site Constraints Assessment Tool for School Property

DOWNLOAD NOTES
Project Site Constraints Table (PSCT) template [PDF, 122 KB] The use of this tool is mandatory for any work that requires engineer input to a project. A completed PSCT must be provided to the Ministry with project documentation
Project Site Constraints Table (PSCT) example [PDF, 141 KB]

This is an example of a filled out PSCT for project team reference. Note that the detail of hazard column includes summaries of reports rather than asking the reader to refer to a separate report.

Also note that the proposed strategies column is populated with advice to inform the project team and ministry on appropriate options for a given project.

Important  Download note: If you see a 'Please wait...' message, save the PDF file to your computer or device and open in Adobe Acrobat.

To save and open PDF files:

  • right-click on the document link
  • choose 'Save link as' from the menu that appears
  • save the document in your local folder
  • open the file with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

If you have any questions, please email Web.Services@education.govt.nz.

Seismic assessment of existing school buildings
Download Notes
Structural and Geotechnical Requirements The updated structural and geotechnical requirements set out our requirements for assessing existing school buildings
Detailed Strength Assessment (DSA) Template  [DOCX, 2.1 MB] A template to be used for the Detailed Seismic Assessment of school buildings 
Initial Strength Assessment (ISA) Template [DOCX, 2.1 MB] A template to be used for the Initial Seismic Assessment of school buildings, and provides a broad indication of the likely level of seismic performance of a building
Earthquake Resilience Programme Contextual Report [PDF, 631 KB] An outline report on the Ministry’s national seismic assessment programme

Research reports and information

School building research reports and information

Download Notes
Establishing the resilience of timber-framed school buildings in New Zealand [PDF, 747 KB] A report on the lessons learnt from the Canterbury earthquakes in relation to timber framed buildings
Ministry report: Structural testing of a standard classroom block — Carterton  [PDF, 1.1 MB] Report on the full scale destructive testing of a standard timber-framed Avalon classroom block
BRANZ report: Load testing of 2 classroom Avalon block at South End School [PDF, 3.4 MB] Technical report on the full scale destructive testing of a standard timber-framed Avalon classroom block
Ministry report: Structural testing of a standard classroom block — Christchurch [PDF, 1.6 MB] Report on the full scale destructive testing of a standard timber-framed Dominion classroom block
BRANZ report: Load testing of a Dominion block at Hammersley Park School [PDF, 5 MB] Technical report on the full scale destructive testing of a standard timber-framed Dominion classroom block
Hammersley Park School Destructive Testing (1min, 54 sec) — YouTube (external link) (external link) Watch the destructive testing of a typical timber-framed school block
BRANZ report — Gymnasium wall testing [PDF, 2.3 MB] Technical report on the full-scale testing of typical school gym walls
Report: Canterbury Earthquakes — Impact on the Ministry of Education's School Buildings [PDF, 4.7 MB] A report on the performance of school buildings during the Canterbury earthquakes
Catalogue of standard school building types  [PDF, 9.6 MB] This catalogue identifies standard building types in the Canterbury region. Some are found throughout the whole country
Report: Two Storey Nelson Block — Physical Inspection Findings and Implications on Detailed Seismic Assessment Results [PDF, 1.1 MB] This report details our research findings of seismic assessments of Nelson blocks, one of the most common school blocks in secondary schools

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback