Willis Bond & Co's PwC Centre project on Wellington's waterfront came through this week's 7.8 magnitude earthquake unscathed with no obvious damage or liquefaction on the site.

The proposed four-level building, owned by the city council's Wellington Waterfront unit, is in the early stages of construction with one crane erected while the foundations are worked on. Buildings in the neighbouring CentrePort Harbour Quays district were damaged by the quake, centred near Kaikoura, but Willis Bond managing director Mark McGuinness says engineers cleared the PwC project, whose design was informed by the Canterbury quakes in 2010 and 2011, and the 2013 temblors near Seddon.

"There's no obvious damage to the foundation work, no impact on the project, the crane's fine and there's no liquefaction visible on the site," McGuinness told BusinessDesk. "For us, it's business as usual, and if anything, the earthquake has reinforced our design approach."

The PwC Centre project is scheduled to be completed in 2018, incorporating a base isolator structure and built to 180 percent of the current building standard. PwC is to be the anchor tenant with naming rights, with rural insurer FMG and Cooperative Bank also committed to renting space.

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The government yesterday said it will investigate the performance of Wellington buildings, with Statistics House in Harbour Quays singled out for particular scrutiny. Several buildings have been cordoned off, though the capital city was largely re-opened for business with 48 hours of the quake.

McGuiness said buildings' first priority is to preserve life when they're being erected, but the industry has increasingly started trying to improve the operational resilience of the structures which had allowed such a quick turnaround in the wake of the quakes.

Willis Bond's other project under construction in Wellington - the former Deka site on the corner of Cuba St - "performed as expected" with no material damage, he said. The proposed six-storey building is a joint project with the Whitireia WelTec strategic partnership to create a centre of excellence for the performing arts and creative industries.

Wellington's Cuba St houses a number of buildings previously identified as earthquake risks, though the nature of this week's particular quake meant it had a greater impact on high-rises than the type of shorter buildings that populate that end of the city.

"We were lucky it wasn't a shape that was more of the threat to those older buildings that need strengthening," McGuiness said. "Overall, it might not seem like it right now, but this was a one-in-400 year event with a huge amount of energy involved - we've been remarkably lucky and fortunate."

(BusinessDesk)