Te Papa Tongarewa – The National Museum of Aotearoa New Zealand

Te Papa Tongarewa is the National Museum of Aotearoa New Zealand, located on the Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) waterfront—an iconic museum entertaining millions of visitors from all over the world. Te Papa hosts many stunning artifacts of Aotearoa New Zealand’s cultural heritage, providing a direct link to the country’s recent and distant past. Working in partnership with Arup, Holmes’ engineering experts successfully delivered a landmark structure with a design life of 150 years, in a highly seismic environment.

From a technical perspective, the project was exceptionally challenging. The museum is designed for very heavy floor loads with an extremely large grid to maintain future flexibility for exhibitions and storage of collections. The building foundation platform required ground improvement, with heavy weights dropped across the entire site over several months to compact the softer materials. Te Papa itself is base isolated, resting on lead rubber bearings and teflon sliders that cushion the building, its occupants and contents from earthquake. In fact, the museum actually features an exhibit about earthquakes and how the structure protects against them!

If you haven’t already been to Te Papa, we recommend you schedule it in as soon as possible. While many of the exhibits will take your breath away, don’t forget to enjoy the structure itself—an intelligent engineering design that demonstrates the very best in structural thinking.

CentrePort Berth and Upgrades

Holmes has been providing ongoing professional engineering advice and support to CentrePort for more than a decade. The key skills we bring are typically in civil, structural, geotechnical, fire and construction engineering. We are regularly involved in activities that encompass new build, inspection and condition reporting, structural assessment, strengthening and refurbishment, public spaces, asset management planning and more. This experience has equipped us with an in-depth understanding of the working port environment and the ability to contribute our knowledge and expertise across all levels from high level planning through to providing technical advice and design to asset management.

Holmes, alongside Tonkin + Taylor, were engaged to deliver this programme of projects that included:

  • Berth modifications to RFT2 & RFT3 to accommodate ferries
  • Upgrades to Kings Wharf to maintain an important coastal shipping facility, and
  • Post-quake temporary works to the Thorndon Container Wharf to resume operational continuity following the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016
  • Wharf modifications to accommodate for Kaitaki and Aratere, including new linkspan, berthing, mooring, fenders and strengthening works

Working in close proximity to a major fault line had a significant impact on the designs. Seismic risk reduction was factored in to reduce impact in the event of an earthquake. The harsh marine environment demanded project-appropriate constructability, and a genuine understanding of engineering close to and beneath the ocean.

Omāroro Reservoir

Holmes worked alongside contractor Heb to produce an alternative design for the Omāroro reservoir in 2019. This offering was ultimately successful, and the detailed design was completed for this critical Wellington Water project over the second half of 2020.

The Holmes structural and geotechnical design team created efficiencies through a number of means, saving the asset owner millions of dollars in capital expenditure. The alternative design drew on a thorough assessment of soil-structure interaction to demonstrate performance under service, ultimate and maximum credible earthquake events. This was particularly important for the reservoir as it is buried in its final state and a lifeline asset. We reduced material use and accommodated the contractors preferences by not adopting key elements of the original design.

We sought input from Wellington Water during the design process, and adapted aspects of the specification to suit their longer term needs. A simple example is the adoption of certain roughness requirements on the tank floor to reduce risk of slips for personnel inspecting or cleaning in future.

The team completed construction staging checks for precast walls and for different backfilling scenarios. Our structural modellers and civil designers performed a number of staged construction modelling exercises to assist the Heb team in communicating with their own staff and with external stakeholders. This enhanced safety outcomes and overall understanding for both project contributors and other interested parties.

With permanent works design complete, the team continues with temporary works, construction monitoring and technical support through 2021.

Aurora Centre (56 The Terrace)

The Aurora Centre project in central Wellington involved the redevelopment and structural strengthening of Unisys House, the demolition and rebuild of the adjacent Aurora Chambers and a new five storey addition over the existing Aurora Terrace carpark. This existing 20 level building constructed in 1968 was gutted back to its concrete structure and redeveloped along with the construction of a new seismically isolated 9 level building next door. The end result was over 25,000 m² (270,000 sqft) of commercial office, retail and carparking.

The project has provided a structurally robust, functional and compelling new home for the Ministry of Social Development. The redevelopment of the buildings redefines their profile and purpose, including seamless connections between the structurally separate components, creating a cohesive and integrated complex.

Fire Engineering

22,000 m² (240,000 sqft) on levels 1-19 were occupied by a single Government tenant there was a need to incorporate new internal circulation stairs that linked levels 3-18. The stairs were able to be open across a total of 11 of those levels without the use of mechanical smoke control systems.

The constraints for the existing structure meant a focus of the fire engineering design was to be able to utilise the existing stairs that did not comply in geometry to current Code. Holmes had previously carried out a fully filmed and documented egress study for the building (as part of an employee’s PhD study) which was able to be used to understand how the occupants (over 2000 of them) used the existing stairs under evacuation conditions. This deep knowledge of the building was crucial in developing a solution that satisfied building officials and the Government tenant.

The age of the building meant that at the outset the building sat outside the new-Code standard and on that basis the redevelopment was able to deliver a modern and new-Code-compliant building with substantial fire safety upgrades—a significant and effectively ‘new’ for the building owner.

Structural Engineering: An NZ first—Fluid Viscous Dampers

The development has showcased technical expertise and innovation in engineering design elements. Most notably, the Aurora Centre demonstrates the first use of Fluid Viscous Dampers as part of the seismic strengthening of an existing building in New Zealand. These were used as the primary strengthening mechanism for the 18 storey tower building, and act as shock absorbers to dramatically decrease earthquake-induced motion.

Retrofitting the dampers into the existing tower structure brought it to 90% of the New Building Standard (an A+ seismic grade). In addition to the Fluid Viscous Dampers, our team developed a new concrete encased steel (CES) column assessment methodology to better understand and assess the seismic performance of the existing structure and its interaction with the proposed damper strengthening proposal.

This technically challenging project has resulted in significantly improved buildings, not only in terms of appearance and functionality but also in regard to seismic resilience.