The property market is booming: why it’s an absolute must to hire a structural engineer before you buy or build in 2021

Posted January 20, 2021

The property market is booming: why it’s an absolute must to hire a structural engineer before you buy or build in 2021

It’s no secret New Zealand’s property market is booming. Despite the many economic and environmental challenges we faced in 2020, the average house price rose to an enviable $788,967 in December according to CoreLogic’s house price index. 

Growth like this was last seen in the halcyon days of 2004 before the financial crisis, and with mortgage rates also at an all-time low, we’re sure many of you are considering purchasing a property. 

When it comes to buying or building in New Zealand, it’s absolutely essential you hire a structural engineer to guide you through the process.

Building or buying in New Zealand

Like many industries, building and construction is not a fail-safe investment. External factors such as the financial stability of buyers and demand on location apply as they do elsewhere, but development in New Zealand comes with its own unique problems. Alongside economic growth, the country has seen a significant increase in seismic activity over the past 50 years.

From Christchurch’s devastating earthquake in 2011, the impact the natural world has on the structural integrity of buildings in New Zealand is significant and ongoing. 

2011’s earthquake wasn’t just devastating in terms of loss of life, but also landscape. In the aftermath of the earthquake, a large number of the buildings in central Christchurch were deemed too dangerous to access. Within three years over 1000 buildings in the area were demolished. 

Thanks to professional companies such as ours that provide express and accurate engineering solutions and reports, Christchurch and nearby affected locations have begun to recover. However, Geotech inspections continue to be a crucial part of the construction.

Geotech engineering at its best

Geotechnical engineering is a type of engineering that looks at the fabric of the ground, i.e. the rocks and soil, and decides if it’s strong enough to support the foundations of a building. 

In areas that suffer from earthquakes, this can change as the ground becomes unstable, and proofing measures are needed to make a building safe. Sometimes a straightforward soil testing before construction can save developers a whole lot of heartache later down the line if an earthquake hits. Foundation inspections that we do are always worthwhile.

That’s why it’s so important to hire a structural engineer whenever you explore the property market.

How can we help?

Our team of engineers has the skill-set required to conduct a Geotech inspection and oversee the successful completion, safety, and compliance of a building site.

Combining professional understanding with our experience of working on a range of different buildings, we can produce the detailed Geotech report NZ construction demands. Not only will this provide you with a good understanding of the land you plan to build on, but it will also warn you of potential hazards upfront, so you don’t need to worry about a hidden foundation inspection cost.

You may think, ‘how do I find a structural engineer that knows so much about earthquake damage?’ The full answer is on our service page, but you should expect the following tasks to be carried out before and during the building phase:

Structural damage assessment and construction monitoring for repair

This is the first and most integral structural inspection as it informs the entire build.

The assessment includes a description of the area designated for construction, the materials in the ground, and the physical condition of the land. It also indicates if there is structural damage, advises on repairs and solutions, and reports on progress made during the repair stage. Finally, it gives the all-important ‘sign-off’ that repairs have been made correctly and the building is safe.

Detailed seismic assessment (DSA)

This is required for all non-residential buildings in New Zealand and it specifically assesses the damage caused by earthquakes.

It does so by using an engineering calculation that provides an NBS rating, which indicates the performance of a building in comparison to similar, newly built structures. The assessment is then used to determine if the building is defined as earthquake-prone. For example, if the NBS rating is under 34% it’s likely the foundations require strengthening or the building needs to be demolished to make it safe.

Deep soil investigation

Another Geotech report NZ structural engineers must complete is a deep soil investigation on all buildings in the TC3 area and some commercial buildings. Analysis can lead to deep piles, site ground improvements, and surface structures with shallow foundations.

Deep soil investigation allows engineers to estimated ground performance such as potential settlement from there, risk of liquefaction can be determined.

Deep soil investigation before construction is not required on buildings outside the TC3 area but a shallow investigation is compulsory for all TC1 and TC2 (low to moderate liquefaction risk) buildings.

It’s time to build and buy!

The market analysis makes it clear that buying or building in New Zealand is a great idea, and with one of our engineers on the side, you can’t go wrong. 

Contact Cephas Rock now

Property market is on the rise - why you need an structural engineer to buy and build