Deconstruction and Demolition Processes

Issued: 9pm, Wednesday 16 March 2011

The urgency of the search and rescue phase of the response is nearing an end and the operation is moving into rebuilding the city. Before this can be done, building assessments must be carried out and this involves deconstruction and demolition of unsafe buildings.


There are four phases in the deconstruction process:

1. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) have been working to identify sites as part of their search and rescue role. Their sole responsibility is to search buildings and locate victims.

However part or all of the building may need to be deconstructed to allow this to happen safely. The activities required to deconstruct one building may render adjacent buildings unsafe. The decision to deconstruct adjacent buildings is sometimes made onsite by the USAR team, not the contractor, and is always made for safety reasons.

2. Those buildings which are not safe to enter are assigned a red placard.

3. Buildings that pose an immediate danger are identified for deconstruction. This involves an onsite USAR assessment and report, the Controller’s sign-off and a report following the completion of the deconstruction. Once signed off, this is tasked back to the USAR operations team.

There are only a small number of deconstruction projects remaining in the city and it is anticipated the USAR team will be stood down as of Monday 21st March.


Demolition is undertaken to ensure safety to the public and to facilitate access later to promote recovery.

Forward planning teams are deployed to assess red placarded buildings to determine whether demolition will go ahead. Engineering and heritage reports are produced at this stage. Christchurch City Council heritage planners and staff of NZ Historic Places Trust are an integral part of the process.

Contacting building owners

Earthquake Response officials will make every possible effort to contact building owners and property managers who represent building owners. The National Controller must sign off on any request for deconstruction/demolition and be satisfied that every attempt has been made to contact building owners. It is however the building owner’s responsibility to inform tenants and leaseholders of affected buildings. In some instances, owners cannot be contacted where contact details are not current or owners are living overseas.

The deconstruction and demolition processes will take time. At all times during the deconstruction and demolition processes, public safety is paramount and integral to all decisions made.

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