Virginia Woolf / Stuff
A detailed report on earthquake hazards at the Elma Turner Library showed the decision to close it early last month was the right one, the council’s chief executive said.
Nelson’s main library could partially reopen to the public in just over a week.
The Elma Turner Library was closed in early June following revelations that heavy ceiling tiles in Nelson City Council’s Civic House and the library building posed an earthquake hazard.
The library tiles turned out to be “much heavier” than expected, between 8kg and 11kg, and with potentially vulnerable library users, the decision was made to close the library. Ceiling tiles weighing more than 7.5 kg are considered seismic risk if not properly restrained.
The council said in a statement on Friday that a pop-up library was due to open on Monday July 25 in the building’s children’s area and activity room provided work to bring the area up to safety standards is complete.
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The pop-up library would operate according to regular library hours.
The council said a ‘limited scope’ Detailed Seismic Assessment (DSA) had been carried out and found not only heavy ceiling tiles ‘widespread’ but also that the ceiling grid holding them was in some parts of the building was less than 34% of New Building Standard.
Buildings below 34% of the standard are considered earthquake prone.
The council said there were three categories of risk identified in the building.
The majority of public areas of the Elma Turner Library, including the children’s area, the broadcast area, the Maitai River and the Halifax sides of the library, as well as the research room, were high risk.
Most of the staff areas, the computer room, the activity room and the foyer were in the medium risk category, and the lowest risk was in the entrance hall, the exit route of the area reserved for staff, low occupancy areas and parts of the building with GIB ceilings.
Council chief executive Pat Dougherty said the results showed it was the right decision to close the library as soon as the weight of the tiles was discovered.
“We had information about the weight of the tiles, but we didn’t know enough about the grid in which these tiles were placed and what that meant in terms of NBS rating. This report clearly indicates that some parts of the library do not meet the 34% NBS threshold, and due to the weight of the tiles and the lack of furniture (to provide cover in the event of an earthquake) in a building like this here, the risk is higher than we are comfortable with.
He said there was usually a 25-year time frame to fix earthquake-prone buildings, but the council was ‘committed to addressing these issues much sooner than that’.
Stage one work will bring the children’s zone and activity room to 67% of the NBS, and would be paid for within an existing budget of $200,000 for reinforcement work.
It is not yet known how long or how much it will cost to bring the rest of the library up to earthquake safety standards.