More damning evidence emerged yesterday over the CTV building collapse with confirmation there was not enough steel reinforcing to withstand a major quake.
New Zealand's top engineering experts have concluded that the doomed six-storey office block's design and construction was not up to 1980s building code standards.
The lack of concrete reinforcement was a major cause of the collapse, they told the royal commission of inquiry hearing into the February 22 disaster, which claimed 115 lives.
It is the latest revelation to come out of the hearing, which has gripped quake-hit Cantabrians for the last seven weeks.
Among some of the most damning evidence over the last few days include:
An apology from the principal of the Christchurch consultancy firm Alan Reay Consultants Ltd which designed the Madras St structure in 1986. Dr Alan Reay apologised to bereaved families for a building that "did not meet my standards".
Dr Reay says its final design was the "sole responsibility" of his structural engineer David Harding who was inexperienced in designing multi-storey buildings and using the company's ETABS computer modelling system.
Working with Mr Harding, was also a relative rookie, junior draughtsman Shane Fairmaid who produced drawings which detailed the design given to him by Mr Harding.
The construction manager, responsible for ensuring the building was built to comply with design engineer plans and
specifications, admitted he only visited the site once a month.
Convicted fraudster Gerald Morton Shirtcliff, otherwise known as William Anthony Fischer, was accused by commission lawyers of "distancing'' himself from ill-fated project.
His boss, Michael Brooks, managing director of Williams Construction Ltd which won the contract to build the CTV Building for local property developer Neil Blair, said Mr Shirtcliff "wasn't up to the job".
The widow of city council engineer Graeme Tapper told how her late husband signed off the building under pressure from bosses in spite of concerns he had over its design, and that it was an earthquake risk.
Former employee, John Henry says Dr Reay would often bypass Mr Tapper and go straight to his building control unit boss Bryan Bluck to try and get building consent.
After those revelations, the city council says it has since "tightened up'' its building permit procedures and its engineers are much more meticulous since the mid-80s.
All of these factors weigh together to give hope to some victims' families who are considering legal action.
Once the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission completes its investigation and produces its final report by the
November 12 deadline, families can turn their attention to a potential civil action against those at fault for the disaster.
Shaun Cotterell, senior associate of law firm Grant Cameron Associates, which has been deal ing with members of the victims group, Quake Families, said civil action is still a possibility.
"We need to wait until the royal commission releases its final report, and then we will weigh it up and see where we go
next. There could well be civil options after that.''
Quake Families spokesman Brian Kennedy, whose wife Faye died in the disaster, said there are families in his group who want to see people held legally responsible.
"There's a chance the coroner may take it further and prefer police charges, but where does it stop? Do we keep going on like this for 10 years? One would hope not.
"I personally don't see any point in pursuing it past the royal commission but there are a couple of people in Quake Families who may take it further.
"But I think the majority would hold a similar view to mine. It won't bring back our loved ones,'' Mr Kennedy said.
Mr Kennedy accepted that yesterday's evidence the concrete columns did not meet the building code of the day was "damning''.
Yesterday, engineer Ashley Smith, co-author of a Department of Building and Housing report that found the CTV building's concrete supporting columns should have more steel reinforcing to provide adequate support in an earthquake, was clear the building was non-compliant.
"None of the DBH expert panel members thought that the design of the columns would have complied,'' he said.
It was "particularly important'' in the CTV building because the columns were "relatively small''.
Another expert engineering witness who investigated the collapse agreed that supporting columns that failed in the February 2011 earthquake were notcode compliant.
Auckland engineer Murray Jacobs said he'd never seen columns with as little reinforcing.
They were "a risk to life'' if they failed and were "not sufficient to provide ductile strength,'' he said.
Ductility allowed buildings to stretch and move in the event of an earthquake.
Light reinforcing may have contributed to the collapse, Dr Jacobs said.
The building was not symmetrical, as it should have been according to codes current at the time.