The construction manager responsible for a 1986 building that suffered a catastrophic collapse in the 6.2 magnitude Christchurch earthquake of February 2011 failed to adequately supervise the project or the site foreman, a report has confirmed.
The report from Royal Commission into the Canterbury Earthquakes, published on 10 December, found that the original design, construction and the post-construction inspections of the six-storey building that collapsed with the loss of 115 lives were all significantly flawed.
The Canterbury TV building in the city of Christchurch was built by Union Construction, with a Gerald Shirtcliff as construction manager.
The commission heard that a number of construction defects had been found, including the absence of “roughening” in joints between precast and in-situ concrete, and errors in the construction of a critical wall.
The report said that Shirtcliff “did not spend enough time on site to perform his role adequately”. Nor did he give the site foreman, a William Jones, the “guidance, mentoring and technical advice he needed and expected from a competent construction manager”.
According to press reports, Gerald Shirtcliff is also under investigation by police in New Zealand and in Australia, for allegedly faking his engineering qualifications by stealing another individual’s identity.
The report was also highly critical of the role of the design engineer, Alan M Reay Consulting Engineer (ARCE), which was also contractually responsible for checking on site work.
But the structural engineer in charge of the design itself, a David Harding, was found to be working “beyond his competence” and did not appreciate the limitations of computer software he was using to model the performance of the building.
However, the commission did not find evidence to support the theory that the contractor had used concrete below the strength specified by the engineer.
The report makes several recommendations relating to the design, construction and maintenance of other buildings in New Zealand, including better assessment of their seismic performance, especially in connections between beams and floors to structural walls.