Earthquake strengthening work is going by the book

By john.maslin@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

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UNDER WRAPS: Alexander Library on Queens Park is sheathed in a protective membrane as workmen sandblast the exterior as part of the earthquake strengthening of the building.
UNDER WRAPS: Alexander Library on Queens Park is sheathed in a protective membrane as workmen sandblast the exterior as part of the earthquake strengthening of the building.

Seismic strengthening of another of Whanganui's most recognisable public buildings is on target to be completed in April - on time and on budget.

Local firms are heavily involved in the earthquake strengthening of the Alexander Library on Queens Park.

DML Construction was awarded the $605,000 contract for the work while other firms have been subcontracted for other parts of the job.

The project is part of Whanganui District Council's five-year earthquake-strengthening programme for the city's key public buildings. Other buildings included in the seismic makeover include the Royal Whanganui Opera House, the Whanganui Regional Museum, the War Memorial Centre and the Sarjeant Gallery.

Work started in December and Rick Grobecker, project manager for the council's property group, said contractors were sandblasting the exterior walls which will then be given a protective coating.

"The old paint work is suspect so the sandblasting is taking all that off before a coating is applied. At the same time we're using steel ties to pin the outside wall to the double brick walls inside."

On the north-facing wall, three concrete pillars have gone up supported by new foundations directly underneath them.

"These pillars and a ply diaphragm in the ceiling will virtually to stop the building flexing in a major earthquake. It's really the only major structural change that's happening inside the building," Mr Grobecker said.

While the exterior work was going contractors would waterproof the library.

"When it was built we didn't have the same intensity of storm events, so we're putting in new guttering. In major rain events before the water used to collect in an internal gutter and spill into parts of the building. The system just couldn't cope with it."

Mr Grobecker said, given the building's age, it was still "pretty structurally sound".

"But this work will bring it up to 67 per cent of the new building code and there hasn't been a lot of structural work needed to bring it up to scratch."

New disabled toilets are being installed and a new disability ramp will be moved to be part of the front entrance to the Alexander.

The project is being financed through either the council's seismic budget or its deferred maintenance budget.

"When the work's completed people coming into the Alexander won't notice anything different at all. Those three pillars are being done in such a way that you won't know they weren't there originally," he said.

Once the Alexander is complete, the museum then the War Memorial Centre are next on the quake-strengthening schedule, with the museum job likely to be out to tender within the next few months.

"The museum will be a logistical nightmare because they have such a huge collection to store before any work can happen," Mr Grobecker said.

Bruce Falk, who is overseeing the project with Mr Grobecker, said the best thing about the Alexander makeover was it meant another of the city's heritage buildings was being retained.

"Whanganui is so rich in heritage buildings and this work is the sort of thing that can prompt private owners to do something to look after their buildings. These are buildings we want to keep."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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