Posted by: Gregory | May 6, 2015

Verandahs, overhead pedestrian infrastructure

We tend to take infrastructure for granted. Not many people really care about where the three waters go, only that they do. Landfills are necessary, but most people don’t want to live next door to one. Roads are reasonably high-profile and cycle lanes are getting all sorts of attention at the moment, but have you stopped to think about infrastructure for pedestrians? Footpaths are the obvious one, getting a bit more attention at the moment as extra car parking space, but there’s more to it than that.

Pedestrians are generally exposed to all elements. Umbrellas used elsewhere fall apart at the slightest Wellington wind.

Ending the relationship

Aside from any waterproof layers worn, it’s the street design that keeps people dry. It’s the combination of buildings and verandahs that redirect the wind and keep the rain off the footpaths. Knowing the city well includes knowing where to find shelter from both northerly and southerly rains.

Wellington City Council District Plan includes a network of verandah requirements in the CBD, allowing for nearly continuous rain cover along the inner-city footpath network.

District Plan Verandah Network

Recently, an audit of verandah conditions highlighted a subset that required some form of repair (PDF report).

Of the 900 (approx.) verandahs across the city, 225 require some form of repair with 15-20% of those verandahs requiring immediate action to restore to a reasonable and safe standard. The majority of defective verandahs are within the CBD, which poses a particular risk to inner city residents and to members of the public due to the density of people within the area.

Defective verandah counts

As such, WCC is about to consult on a bylaw change allowing for council to enforce an adequate state of repair, instead of only having the ability to act after a dangerous situation has already been created.

The DomPost recently ran an article on the upcoming consultation.

Building portfolio leader Iona Pannett said it was important to talk to building owners about the proposal because it would be a cost to them.

“We have had a few owners approach us about the cost. It’s a big undertaking. We don’t want to be putting undue pressure on building owners.”

After the Canterbury earthquake, a royal commission recommended immediate strengthening of thousands of verandas or awnings throughout the country, as they were believed to be particularly vulnerable to collapse.

The February 2011 Canterbury earthquake, which killed 185 people, caused verandas to fall, including one that trapped store manager Jane Taylor at Cashel Mall. Several also collapsed in the magnitude-6.7 quake in Gisborne in 2007.

The bulk of the draft bylaw is shown below. It’s pretty straightforward in that it can notify owners and then authorise action if the owners fail to comply by the date required.

Verandah Bylaw S2.2

According to the timeline, the bylaw is expected to come into force on 1 September 2015, allowing for consultation time, amendment and passage by full council.

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