South Island Blood Centre, Christchurch Hero

South Island Blood Centre, Christchurch

In late 2012, the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) announced that it was partnering with Ngai Tahu Property to develop a major new facility on Christchurch’s old Addington Railway workshops site. The property would be built by Ngai Tahu Property and leased by NZBS. Hawkins was engaged to construct the facility for the collection, processing and manufacture of blood and tissue products.

NZBS and Ngai Tahu Property’s aims:

  • To develop a new Christchurch facility that would enable the Blood Service to keep pace with collection and manufacturing demands, technology changes and increasing regulatory expectations.
  • To construct a facility that would be able to take the load of the Auckland facility should an event deem this building inoperable
  • To construct a seismically robust building, designed and built to an importance Level 3 standard that could function without the input of mains power, water and drainage.

What we did:

As soon as we were appointed we met with the client and the consulting team and established a culture of no blame. When issues arose we worked together to resolve them. This played a huge role in the success of this project, which involved constructing this 3,726m² building over two levels, including:

  • A public donor area
  • Offices
  • Laboratories
  • Store rooms
  • Packing and delivery areas
  • Welfare and plant.

At the start of the project we were excavating and doing earthworks concurrently. A spell of wet weather meant the site kept getting flooded and the project was at risk of delay. We developed a way to pour the concrete for the entire floor in one pour rather than staging it. As a result, we mitigated a potential delay of 20 days.

The site was contaminated with hydrocarbons. This meant that all excavated material had to be stockpiled on-site until it could be fully screened in 100 cube lots. We brought soil that passed the screening back to site and re-used it along with fresh soil.

The foundation is a concrete raft constructed on a gravel raft with subgrade pads as foundations for shear walls. The subgrade pads were an innovative way of using the weight of the gravel raft to hold down the shear walls. The bulk of the structure is formed from precast panels and steel, while the building envelope comprises precast, glazing, coloured steel panels (in a number of forms) and Titan Panel.

As the NZBS’s Southern Headquarters, the building is heavily serviced. There are:

  • Multiple lab areas for the processing and packaging of blood
  • Clean rooms with HEPA filters for the processing of bone marrow
  • An irradiation room and cryogenic storage
  • 9 freezers with temperatures ranging from 5°C to -40°C
  • A large lift shaft
  • A dumb waiter

The building is fully networked to allow information to be passed between the different work spaces and to be tracked at all times. It is fully air-conditioned with a BMS system, has solar water heating, is fully sprinkled and has UPS and generator power backup.

Unique challenges:

  • This was a fast-track construction project and so architectural elements and the fit-out were still being designed while we were working. Because this is a medical facility and is subject to guidelines and requirements around cleanliness and detail of finishes, we worked with the architect to develop designs collectively.
  • Planning for and installing the services was complex. For example, there were 9 freezers which had to be at temperature and trended for two weeks before the building was complete. We also needed to show two weeks trending data for the air conditioning at practical completion. We had to phase construction in a manner that allowed for these things and that meant we could shut the site down two weeks before practical completion in order to obtain the air conditioning trending data. 
  • We had to procure specialist equipment, such as the crate washer, from Denmark. This meant we had to commit to an installation date while still working on the structure.
  • We recognised that this is a community building. We held open days throughout the project where the local community could come down to site, see the progress and give us their feedback in order to ensure it met the needs of the end user. We then made changes based on this feedback. For example, there were some windows between the donor area and the area where donors rest after giving blood but these were too high and wouldn’t allow people to see through when they were sitting down – so we lowered them. The original design of the screens for offices also wasn’t working well and so we sat down with the architect and developed timber screens.

The outcome:

We completed the new blood centre fifteen days early and with minimal defects. Its successful early delivery is a testament to our collaborative approach to programming and the spirit in which the programme review was managed. The NZBS blood centre is a building of which everyone involved in the project is proud and that will serve NZBS and Ngai Tahu Property well into the future.

It has space for additional donor beds, needed to meet the increasing demand for plasma. It provides a more comfortable environment for existing donors in Christchurch and enables them to donate more often and offers space for new donors when they are needed to meet demand.

The inclusion of manufacturing and testing at the facility helps to prevent a loss of supply as a result of a facility being out of action for any reason. As a result of this project, the ongoing safety and security of the blood supply to the healthcare system throughout New Zealand is assured.