Construction Technique for Auckland Buildings
9th February 2000
Construction Technique Dusted Off, for Kiwi Income’s Compaq Building
It’s back to the future for a group of buildings in Auckland. A major waterfront development on Viaduct Harbour is being constructed using the latest in building technologies. It will house an international computer company, but uses an archaic construction method.
The building technique for the fourth and largest Maritime Square Building – the Compaq Building - is regarded as pure craftsmanship. It had its heyday 50 to 70 years ago, and was last used in Auckland ten to 15 years ago. An entire workforce has required retraining in the techniques used to build the group.
The Compaq Computer NZ limited building was recently begun in Auckland. Like the other three of the Maritime Square group already built on a site bordering the Viaduct frontage and Fanshawe Street, the Compaq building is to be constructed using an “in situ” concrete method which is now almost never used.
Building owner Kiwi Income Property Trust’s joint managing director Richard Didsbury says the design of the Compaq Building and its Maritime siblings is inspirational. He says it’s because of the demanding nature of the classic Georgian design of the buildings that the construction method was used.
“In situ concrete construction means that each wall is not precast concrete or concrete slab, which is the construction method that totally dominates building today,” he says. “Instead of concrete walls being lifted into place, they’re poured on site. The construction involves building ‘gang shutters’ – structures up the wall face on either side, made of timber, and pouring concrete into them. The shutters are lifted away when the concrete sets, leaving the walls. So, the building is created floor by floor, with each level being poured upon the other.
“This is a method that was last seen in Auckland at least ten years ago, and draws on a tradition that was at its height probably many years ago. It requires excellent workmanship and accuracy, and to cope with it in the 90s, the construction company had to retrain an entire workforce of up to 100 people.”
Each of the Maritime Buildings is low in form, being six floors, built to complement the setting and view to Auckland’s water. The buildings are designed to capture the essence of a quality European or American campus environment, being clustered around formal gardens and box hedging leading leisurely onto the waterfront walkway.
“They’ve been built to create a timeless feel, down to the clock towers which define each end of the development,” says Mr Didsbury. “They’re quality buildings, trimmed at the base by basalt from the South Island. This is the same quality finishing and material that was used in the Auckland Town Hall 88 years ago, and buildings like the Ferry Building.”
“We felt the market needed beautiful classic architecture, which was substantial and solid. They’re reminiscent of earlier 1920s buildings in Auckland. They refer back to them in proportions, but with more decoration. Aucklanders already love them.”
Walker & Co architect Ashley Allen who designed the buildings says:
“The market has lapped them up. There’s a lot of spare space around the city, but these are leasing like hotcakes. That’s undoubtedly because of their quality look and feel.”
Old craft forms and materials have been used, with stone veneers that have been “out of the industry for many decades,” he says.
Sydney sandstone has been used on atrium entries, as well as bluestone (similar to basalt).
The 7,100 square metre Compaq building has been 83% pre-leased to computer company Compaq NZ limited, which will take three floors, and leading real estate company Bayleys, which will take two and a half floors. Each floor has been built to the highest quality spec, and also features French doors opening onto expansive decks overlooking Viaduct Harbour and the America’s Cup 2000 facilities. Other features include: acoustic tile ceilings, high quality air conditioning, low glare lighting and very rapid lifts.
On the Fanshawe Street side, the buildings already form a dense, commanding city face, but with interesting indents and forms. They are softer on the waterfront side, “more relaxed, less dominant and bold,” says Didsbury.
The Compaq Building and others in the six-building Maritime Square group will be part of Kiwi Income Property Trust’s listed property fund, which currently has a portfolio of 20 major properties spread throughout New Zealand, including office towers and retail shopping centres. Kiwi Income Property Trust is the largest diversified property fund listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.