Nelson City Council has temporarily closed Elma Turner Library after an inspection of ceiling tiles discovered some pose an earthquake risk.
Council says last week’s inspection found that some of the ceiling tiles were much heavier than expected, weighing between 8kg and 11kg.
Ceiling tiles weighing more than 7.5kg are deemed ‘heavy tiles’ and are considered to pose an earthquake risk if not properly restrained, the Council said in a statement today.
The inspection also found that the ceiling tiles are in a two-way grid, fixed at its perimeter to partitions and walls, but with no visible diagonal bracing.
“This latest inspection has built on Council’s knowledge about the ceiling tiles and as our knowledge increases, our response changes. Council had already identified a risk with the ceiling tiles and set aside funding of $200,000 in this financial year (2021/22) for remediation work. This work has not been completed yet due to staff shortages, and an issue identified with the tiles being used for heating purposes, but will now take place with urgency,” it said.
Engineers will now produce a report detailing the expected relative risks of the ceiling tiles and the NBS (New Building Standards) ratings for the ceilings, including whether the ceiling is considered to be a significant life safety hazard.
Council says it will also investigate whether it is possible for an interim securing of areas to address the hazard.
This work has already been undertaken in parts of Civic House, where galvanised aluminium channels have been attached to brace the tiles, but it is unclear at this stage whether this will be appropriate for Elma Turner Library, it said.
Chief Executive, Pat Dougherty says the weight of the tiles was very concerning, particularly when combined with the vulnerability of library users – such as older adults and children – and a lack of furniture that can offer protection in the event of a major earthquake.
“Closing a much-loved community facility, even temporarily, is not an easy decision, but on the basis of what we know so far, we are not prepared to accept the level of risk the ceiling tiles at Elma Turner Library present to our community,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the Library needs to be closed as a precaution while we learn more about the risk and what we can do to mitigate it.”
Community and Recreation Committee Chair, Tim Skinner said that while he recognised the inconvenience the closure caused to the public, the decision was the right call in terms of safety.
“We cannot in good conscience allow this building to continue to be occupied knowing what we know about the weight of the tiles.”
“We hope the community understand why we need to close as a precaution and hope we can get the Library back up and running soon,” Mr Skinner said.