NZi3 Hero

NZi3: transforming ideas from the lab into industry innovations

NZi3 is a state-of-the-art building that houses the National ICT Innovation Institute. It is based at the University of Canterbury. The institute is a ‘hothouse’ of strategic ICT research and aims to be a globally recognised innovation centre that transforms ideas from the lab, across the innovation gap, into industry.

In 2002 following calls from the tertiary education system in New Zealand to find ways to drive greater engagement between industry and academic research, particularly in IT, the decision was made to build this facility. The project was funded by the New Zealand Government and industry players including Tait Electronics, Jade Software, IBM and HP.

University of Canterbury’s aims:

  • To build a facility to help drive better engagement between industry and academic research particularly in the area of IT. 
  • To develop a building that would be flexible in use and adaptable for the future, and which would foster communication, innovation and creativity.

What we did:

Hawkins was engaged as the lead contractor on this project, tasked with making this 70m-long, 16m-wide building a reality. Situated on the corner of Engineering Road and Creyke Road on the University of Canterbury campus, the building measures 2,400m2 over two levels, with the upper level directly connecting to the adjacent engineering faculty.

The building provides a large open plan area on level two with offices and open display areas on the ground floor. There are no structural elements intruding on the floor area, which gives the university flexibility for future use.

In order to reduce construction time and material wastage and to improve quality control, we selected prefabricated components over on-site fabrication wherever possible. Structural steel trusses were manufactured and transported in 18-metre lengths and site welded together. Attention to detail in construction was paramount, as the accuracy of the bolts on the trusses had to be +/- 2mm at either end.

NZi3 was the pilot project to employ the New Zealand Green Star Education Tool, gaining ‘five stars’ for the design. Features such as rainwater collection, solar power, automatic windows to control temperature and CO² levels, and the use of phase change material (PCM) to help regulate the internal temperature are some of the green technologies incorporated in the building.

In fact the use of PCM (the first time it’s ever been used in New Zealand) meant that there was no need for a chilled water cooling system on the upper floor. This reduced energy consumption and the associated maintenance.

The Green Star programme covered all aspects of the building’s construction from materials selection to waste minimisation and recycling. We enforced a strict waste management policy on site with 73% of construction waste being re-used or recycled.

Unique challenges:

  • It was critical to manage noise and vibration during the piling phase to minimise disturbance to sensitive equipment in the adjacent College of Engineering. The building has also been constructed on rib-raft pods for insulation, not common for buildings with such a large floor plate and structure.
  • The site itself presented a significant challenge for this type of structure as it featured sandy gravels with a shallow silt layer compounded by a high water table approximately 1 metre below the ground surface. Consequently, the foundations of the building are on 900mm diameter bored piles located under main structural elements, such as the in situ reinforced concrete shear wall and precast tilt-up panels.
  • With such a high water table and a storm water system that discharges into a protected waterway, all dewatering and site run off had to be managed with extreme care. The use of an extensive silt filtration system required careful management by Hawkins.
  • Other challenges included complex formwork and skilled concrete placing for the four structural walls’ angled and faceted shaping. There was also a myriad of cabling and services run under a raised floor system, including automatic blinds, high tech mechanical services, innovative lighting systems and extensive data cabling and communications.

The outcome:

NZi3 offers a unique fusion of the best of New Zealand’s ICT academic expertise with industry-driven research. It houses 50 post-graduate students and 30 researchers who are all working on long-term projects that require a creative approach.

The NZi3 building is a world-class advertisement for the high-tech activities that it houses, forcefully conveying the message that the future is being defined within this innovative glass, concrete and steel structure.