Repair work has started on Christchurch Art Gallery, with the re-levelling tender that will relieve stress in the building's foundations having been awarded.
In April this year the Council called for submissions both locally and internationally to find an innovative solution to the Gallery's foundation issues. The re-levelling tender has gone to lead contractor Uretek Ground Engineering (NZ) Ltd, who will work with a consortium of international experts from New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the United States of America on the project.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the Gallery is the first of Council's existing major facilities to have work start on it and signals the rebuild is well underway.
"This project, as well as the recently announced $4.8 billion cost-sharing deal between the Council and the Crown, shows our joint commitment to the rebuilding and replacing of major facilities.
"We are hopeful the Gallery will re-open in 2015. The commencement of the re-levelling work means we are on track and as the project progresses we will become increasingly assured of an opening date."
The re-levelling will see the building lifted permanently. Piles will be formed under the foundations and filled with grout, slowly raising the building up. Waste ground material that is generated by the work will be pumped out and recycled for use in repairing the city's roads.
Gallery Director Jenny Harper is looking forward to welcoming workers onsite.
"I don't think I have ever been so excited about seeing people in hi-vis jackets at the Gallery. The Gallery has been running an extensive programme of exhibitions in alternative spaces throughout the city since the building closed, but we are eager to have our own space back and to be able to plan our programme with confidence."
Uretek Ground Engineering (NZ) Ltd Business General Manager Phil Johnston says the job is well within the capabilities of the company, even though the building has dropped up to 135mm in places following the earthquakes.
"In the past we have worked on structures that have subsided up to 500mm. The technology we are using was developed as a result of the Japanese earthquakes and we are utilising the assistance of our strategic alliance partners in Japan. It is a great privilege to be part of the rebuild effort, especially on an iconic building that has such significance to locals and visitors, both nationally and internationally."
The Council will also soon be asking for expressions of interest locally and internationally to develop base isolation for the Gallery, which is the second stage of the repair project. The principle of base isolation involves introducing some form of flexible bearings between the above ground parts of the building and the foundations so that during an earthquake the bearings act like shock absorbers reducing the forces the building needs to resist. Once the base isolation is completed, the façade and interiors will then be repaired.
The final cost of the entire repair project is not yet available, as all the tenders have not been awarded and negotiations with insurers are continuing. Through last year's Annual Plan the Council committed to repairing the Gallery to 100 per cent of the new building code, along with additional earthquake stabilisation work.