Students plan seismic strengthening work for earthquake-prone marae

Second year Building Science students recently visited a local marae to cost plan the seismic strengthening work needed to earthquake proof the building. The visit gave a valuable insight into the importance of buildings to their communities.

Te kainga Marae exterior.

Last week a group of second-year Victoria University of Wellington Building Science students had the chance to get out of the classroom and apply their skills to a tangible project when visited Te Kainga Catholic marae in Kilbirnie, which has been classified as earthquake prone, to assess and cost the seismic strengthening work needed.

Students on the Building Project Management Cost Planning Course were tasked with developing and costing a seismic strengthening project plan that reflected the unique site conditions, with a particular focus on how to complete the work in the most cost-efficient way possible.

“It’s interesting being on site rather than imagining it in the lecture. It really helps you understand the purpose of use of the building,’ said Liam Harrington, one of the students.

While the visit was a chance for the students to apply knowledge in a real-world setting, it also offered a vital perspective that can be hard to convey in the classroom.

Professor of Architectural Science, Dr Regan Potangaroa explains, “Giving students the opportunity to meet the client and the building is invaluable and shows how important buildings are to their communities. Having Boy Thompson, Chairman of Trustees of Te Kainga, give us the Māori worldview on the marae, its concept and history shows them that buildings are so much more than bricks and mortar which is something we can’t teach in the classroom. The students were very engaged with the experience and came away with a real sense of why this building is so important.”

Students were escorted onto the marae by the local Ngati Kahungunu kaumatua Jim Carroll and from the traditional pōwhiri and hongi, to the explanation of the history and use of the marae by Boy Thompson the visit gave the students an insight into how special this building is to the people that use it.

It’s good to experience the cultural aspect of the marae and see how much the improvements we’re planning would mean to the community,” said student Magnolia Akeli.

“There are around 1,300 marae around New Zealand, and it is estimated that around 71% are classified as earthquake prone.” Says Professor Potangaroa. “With marae running on a koha basis they won’t have the money needed for seismic strengthening work, a vital consideration for the students’ cost planning exercise.”

Professor Potangaroa uses the term ‘whānaurisation’ to describe a possible solution to this issue.

“Many marae have access to the man power required to do the strengthening work which could drastically reduce costs. They need access to the knowledge of how best to implement solutions in the most cost-effective way.”

In an effort to bridge this knowledge gap Professor Potangaroa is trying to set up a simple costing portal, as part of Resilience to Nature’s Challenge 2: Matauranga Maori, this will allow marae communities to put in the dimensions of their buildings and get a cost estimate for the seismic strengthening work. They can then utilise their own manpower and resource for the work.