Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

CTV inquiry: Junior draughtsman responsible for design

The collapsed CTV building. Photo / Geoff Sloan.
The collapsed CTV building. Photo / Geoff Sloan.

The design company behind the CTV Building put a junior draughtsman in charge of coming up with its drawings, a hearing heard today.

The royal commission of inquiry hearing into the six-storey building's collapse in the February 22 earthquake, which claimed 115 lives, enters its seventh week this morning.

Alan Reay Consultants Ltd designed the ill-fated Christchurch tower block in 1986.

The commission has previously heard that a structural engineer with no experience in designing multi-storey buildings or the firm's computer modelling system, was given ``sole responsibility'' for its design.

Dr Alan Reay, principal of Alan Reay Consultants, has repeatedly distanced himself from design responsibility in recent weeks. He also believes it should have been more thoroughly inspected after the magnitude-7.1 quake of September 4, 2010, which sparked the Canterbury earthquake sequence.

But today, the royal commission heard that, on top of putting David Harding, an inexperienced structural engineer in charge of the Madras St structure, junior draughtsman Shane Fairmaid was also given responsibility of its drawings.

Between them, the young pair designed the building which came down in the violent magnitude-6.3 earthquake of February 22.

Structural draughtsman at the firm, Wayne Strachan this morning took the stand to say that Dr Reay was involved in the initial drawings of the CTV Building.

He recalled a "rush'' to get the drawings to the city council.

And after initially believing he did the majority of the drawings on the CTV Building, the highly-experienced draughtsman accepted, after reviewing the drawings, that his junior draughtsman, Mr Fairmaid - who he had taught - had done the bulk of the work.

Earlier today, another former structural draughtsman for Alan Reay Consultants, Terry Horn, painted a picture of his ex-employer.

Mr Horn said that Dr Reay - known by some clients and colleagues as "The Doctor'' because of the importance he gave to his doctorate - had tight control of his projects.

Mr Horn, who says he did not work on the CTV building, told the hearing that Dr Reay encouraged his draughtsmen and engineers to design buildings with "as much efficiency as possible''.

He would be criticised by his boss if he "over-detailed'' his drawings, or did too much work.

The royal commission has previously been told that Dr Reay was known for buildings that were no stronger or expensive than was required to meet the bare minimum of building standards.

Mr Horn said Dr Reay came across as being "very well educated and superior'' and liked a quiet office place.

"He did, sort of, know better ... and you were left in no doubt that he knew more than you,'' Mr Horn said.

Last week, the hearing was told that a city council engineer in the building control unit in 1986 often queried designs submitted by Alan Reay Consultants.

The widow of Graeme Tapper told how her late husband signed off the building under pressure from bosses despite concerns he had over its design, and that it was an earthquake risk.

Today, Mr Horn said that Dr Reay nicknamed him `Colonel Tapper' after becoming "frustrated'' with his close scrutiny of his designs.

The hearing continues with evidence from other Alan Reay Consultants' employees, before delving into the building permit process for the Madras St building.


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