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Engineering of Knox Church rebuild, world first

Media Advisory: Knox Presbyterian Church, 28 Bealey Avenue, Christchurch - New Zealand

13 December 2013

Issued by Momentus Public Relations Ltd

Engineering of Knox Church rebuild, world first

The $5.5 million project of rebuilding the severely earthquake damaged Knox Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Victoria Street and Bealey Avenue, will move a step closer tomorrow (Sat 14 Dec)

when four precast, post tensioned buttresses will be lifted over the roof of the church and then positioned in place before being connected to the existing timber structure.

The type of engineering involved is understood to have never been used before and is considered a world first.

The concrete buttresses range from 6.3m to 8.3m high with the largest buttress weighing approximately 13 tonne.

The design of the buttresses is a collaboration between Wilkie and Bruce and Aurecon. Aurecon engineers proposed the idea of “rocking column” buttresses being used and completed the detail design of the buttresses. Wilkie and Bruce took the structural concept and added the architectural features to come up with the final look of the buttresses.

By using a low damage design approach used here with “rocking column” philosophy the building will be able to be reused quickly following an earthquake.

The post-tensioning keeps the load carrying capability and restores the column back to vertical after the earthquake. External dissipaters on the sides of the buttresses dissipate energy via yielding. All structural damage is therefore confined to these dissipaters which have been designed to be replaceable following an earthquake. Once the dissipaters are replaced the building would be back to its pre-earthquake strength.

Saturdays lift is the first of two, with the and a second is planned for February 2014 when the remaining 10 buttresses required for the rebuild, will be fitted.

About the lifting of the buttresses

• A 250 tonne Titan crane is required to manage the huge weight of each buttresses.

• The first of the four buttress will be lifted at 5am with the last being at aprox 11am.

• The process of lifting, positioning and connecting each buttress, will take aprox 2hrs.

• Two lanes on Bealey Ave (cnr Victoria St) will be closed off during the lifting and will be reopened 12pm

Background about the rebuild

The century-old bricks tumbled and fell, the limestone cracked, and our landmark triple-gabled church on the corner of Victoria Street and Bealey Avenue has had its timber skeleton exposed to public gaze for more than 2 years, ever since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes shattered the peace of Christchurch.

Now it is time to provide new lightweight cladding for the heritage timber structure which so sturdily defied the violent quakes. By the end of 2014 we plan to have completed a fine modern interpretation of the old 1902 church building. The distinctive peaked roof line and striking interior timbers will remain, but no more bricks! Designed to meet 100% of the building code as at March 2013, and set on a thick raft foundation with walls that will flex in a big quake, the renewed Knox Church could easily last for another 100 years.

The rebuilt church has been planned to be also suitable for community use, with seating for up to 400 people, and with improved insulation, accessibility and acoustics. Sprinklers will provide protection for the venerable timbers in case of fire. With its central location and its own car-parking area, Knox will be a fine venue for weddings, funerals, concerts, lectures and dramatic performances in the future.

Wilkie and Bruce Architects, who have long experience with heritage buildings, are the lead consultants. They are working closely with Aurecon (structural and seismic engineers) and Powell Fenwick (mechanical, electrical, fire and hydraulic engineers). Rawlinsons have provided quantity surveying services and Marshall Day are handling the acoustics. The wonderful century old 1910 pipe organ has survived with minor damage only and will be repaired, upgraded and reinstalled by the South Island Organ Company.

The parish was first established in 1880 and since then, Knox Church has touched the lives of many people. The TV image of the flood lit shell of the damaged church which nightly provided the background for the television news in the days following the February earthquake, has been etched in the minds of the wider public and evoked much interest in New Zealand and beyond.

How are Knox paying for the rebuild?

Funding to fully complete the $5.5 million project has yet to be confirmed. However, we are fortunate that monies received from our insurance pay out, various grants and support of the Knox Trust have made it possible for the work to start.

We are seeking $2 million in fundraising through trust application, personal donations, and are hopeful that the good news of our rebuilding will encourage further financial support from around New Zealand, as people recall family connections and memories associated with Knox Church through the years.

Knox Church: http://www.knoxchurch.co.nz/index.html

Various Images of Knox Church:




As we begin a new and exciting stage in the history of Knox Church, it may be interesting to glance back to our beginnings.

In 1880 the present site of Knox Church was bought for 1000 pounds and a temporary church building set up. This was the third Presbyterian church in Christchurch, after St Andrews (now at Rangi Ruru School) and St Pauls (Trinity Pacific).

The first minister was Rev David McKee who came from Ireland with his family. He suffered from “a weakness of the chest” and hoped that the better climate in NZ would improve his health. A man of much ability, he soon attracted a large and influential congregation and his generosity to the poor and needy was notable. However, his health did not improve and after only a few months he died, leaving his wife, nine children and his mother alone in this new land. No state welfare in those days, but the new congregation continued to pay his stipend to the family for six months and also set up a trust fund which bought half an acre of land in Onslow Street and built a house for the family there.

Bealey Avenue was known as the North Belt at that time. The congregation of the new North Belt Church grew steadily and by 1901 there were 200 members. The church’s accounts were in good order, with their highest credit balance yet - 36 pounds! So now a permanent church building was planned and in 1902 the new brick church was opened. It cost 3418 pounds to build and the congregation had to take out a mortgage of 2000 pounds. A further 300 pounds was borrowed to pay for an organ. Then special appeals and fundraising efforts took place, to pay off the mortgage. One such scheme was a “penny collection” - one penny per member per week. In just 8 years all debt was repaid.

The name “Knox Church” was given in 1904. Throughout the following years the church had many able ministers and the building became something of a landmark, standing sturdily on the corner of two important roads in the city.

How the city has changed today! But even in its damaged state Knox Church has been a notable feature of the city and the soaring timbers have inspired interest and admiration. We at Knox are lucky to be able to look forward to the future and to worship services resuming in our lovely new-old church.

Information from “Knox 1880 - 1980” by Fergus Murray

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