Christchurch Town Hall

Acclaimed world-wide for both its architecture and acoustics, the Christchurch Town Hall holds a special spot in Cantabrian hearts. Its position at the centre of the new Performing Arts precinct reinforces its status as a premier gathering place for both performances and events.

As a result of the devasting 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, and due to the land damage beneath, the Town Hall required the strengthening of foundations and damage repair to the original design. For Holmes, this NZ $167M+ conservation project was both technically complex and interesting. With significant portions being upgraded, repaired and restored, and additional areas undergoing a complete rebuild—this project offered the full spectrum of structural and geotechnical challenges. Holmes collaborated with the geotechnical engineers to design a new foundation raft atop ground improvement that tied the existing building elements together and provided additional resilience to the complex. Through high end analysis we’ve minimised the strengthening work required for the superstructure to achieve 100%NBS—an achievement we’re incredibly proud of!

In addition to the excellent engineering we achieved, we aimed to help preserve the original character and style of the building with its white marble, dark timber, rich red fabrics and vibrant artworks–because it was important to our client. Maintaining the original identity of the building provides a tangible link to ‘prequake Christchurch’, and Holmes was delighted to be involved with the preservation of such an iconic building.

In 2021, the project won the highly coveted and exclusive ‘Supreme Award’, at the 2021 Structural Awards by The Institution of Structural Engineers. It also won its nominated category ‘Structural Heritage’ too.

Isaac Theatre Royal

The Isaac Theatre Royal is one of Christchurch’s most iconic heritage buildings, and the Grade-A heritage listed theatre was badly damaged in the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. The project included the rebuild of a large portion of the structure while retaining the historic unreinforced masonry façade, ornate plaster ceiling dome and the entrance feature marble staircase.

Two major constraints on the project were the fixed $40M budget and the opening date for the first show. The theatre needed to be open for the 2014-2015 summer show season to keep key staff on. This required the design and construction to occur in two-thirds of the time of a conventional project. Holmes were the structural and fire engineers for the rebuild, and it became the first major entertainment venue to reopen for business in the CBD following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Fire Engineering

Holmes was brought into the project during construction to review the existing Fire Engineering Strategy provided by another consultant. Through performance based design we were able to present a robust solution on schedule and on budget.

The new Fire Engineering Strategy was produced within three months of engagement. The fire engineering design process also included:

  • Collaboration with the University of Canterbury to develop a new egress modelling tool for Holmes Fire use, which could undertake the buildings comprehensive egress assessment of merging crowd spaces;
  • Development of a fire strategy which considered an alternative compliance with the New Zealand Building Code in order to maintain the original architectural vision of a building designed over 100 years ago;
  • A hands-on approach to proactively integrate the Fire Strategy with the operational needs of the Theatre.
  • Consideration to Safety in Design, which included the physical practicality of installation and maintenance of the proposed fire strategy; and
  • Implementation of a complex fire and security interface which included multiple tests and training of theatre staff.

The design team had a vision of reviving the building to its original design including several key heritage features such as the auditorium dome and plaster detailing, marble stairs, and Edwardian façade. The dome and plaster detailing, in particular, relied heavily on our assessment.

Using smoke modelling tools, we were able to eliminate the need for the existing motorised smoke curtains covering the full width of the theatre adjacent to the dome. This also allowed the client to remove all of the access gantries and maintenance of the system.

Throughout the project, we were able to work collaboratively with the client to provide a unique, performance-based solution tailored specifically to the needs of the heritage building.

Structural Engineering

The tight construction period was achieved through the use of information sharing with the contractor and other consultants in the form of 3D Revit models, a close working relationship with the contractor, and looking outside the box in terms of materials (such as shotcrete) and construction sequencing.

The Theatre’s fixed budget consisted of insurance money and various grants and fundraising commitments. A key part of managing the budget was cost certainty during the design phases. The use of 3D drawings allowed the quantity surveyors to more easily identify pinch points and difficult areas, especially with regard to conflicts with heritage fabric. This helped to identify, manage and reduce these high risk cost areas throughout the project.

Nearly all the unique heritage features of this building were saved and carefully restored by skilled craftsmen—leaving the theatre in a better condition than it was pre-earthquake.

New Performing Arts Venue | QPAC

Nestled in the heart of Brisbane with a design inspired by Brisbane River and Brisbane’s heritage fabric, the New Performing Arts Venue (NPAV) is set to offer a new landmark on the banks of the Brisbane River. Featuring a sinuous, folding glass facade with an impressive timber cladding lining the internal walls, this performing arts centre is pushing the envelope for cultural building designs in Brisbane. NPAV will provide the current Queensland Performing Arts Centre with an additional 1500 seats and studio spaces to support the growing needs of the Brisbane community and tourism industry.

To deliver the Fire Engineering strategy, Holmes is currently undertaking computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling and egress modelling that are proving critical to execution of the spatial planning and overall architecture of the building. The project is still under the final design phase so additional changes could still be presented.

Holmes is also providing specialist structural fire engineering services to rationalise and optimise the level of protection to the steel elements within the building. This fire protection strategy is supported through a performance based structural fire engineering solution, to demonstrate that the proposed steel design can satisfy the Performance Requirements of the Building Code of Australia. The development of a robust fire safety strategy for the building will be paramount in the successful delivery of a flexible design ensuring the achievement of the architectural vision for the building whilst still prioritising fire safety.

Flinders Centre

Flinders Centre is a high-rise A-grade commercial tower extension to the existing Bankstown Sports Club. The tower was officially completed at the end of 2018, following a 3.5 year involvement by Holmes Fire from the early concept design, through design development and construction till occupation.

Flinders Centre is eleven storeys, containing a gym, childcare, and commercial spaces. A future rooftop bar was also considered in the design, expected to be pursued in the near future. The tower is served by four high speed lifts contained in a feature glass shaft enclosure on the eastern side of the building, complementing the floor to ceiling glass walls on all sides of the building. The glass lift shaft was demonstrated as providing an equivalent level of protection as a conventional lift shaft to evacuating occupant and fire fighters, through a performance based fire engineering solution prepared by Holmes, by providing a suite of subtle fire safety features.

Holmes also took into account existing fire engineering solutions to the remainder of the development, including complex interactions between the existing and new building parts, to allow the building to function as one whilst maximising the safety of occupants during evacuation.  The fire engineered solutions provided by Holmes included:

  • Rationalisations to the stair pressurisation system
  • Extended travel distances
  • Fire stair discharge
  • Omission of smoke exhaust from the office tower
  • Sliding doors used for egress purposes
  • Provision of a combustible roof pergola
  • Rationalised protection of supply air control equipment

Throughout this project, Holmes worked closely with the client, architect, services engineers, fire brigade, Council, BCA consultant, and the builder to develop cost effective, practical and aesthetically achievable solutions which ultimately meet the design objectives whilst achieving suitable levels of fire safety for the building’s occupants and fire brigade personnel.

Holmes has been involved with numerous other extensions and fitouts of other parts of Bankstown Sports Club, including the construction of the Travelodge Hotel, restaurant fitouts, feature light installations, carpark modifications, café remodelling, plant room modifications, and ad hoc advice.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

The Auckland Art Gallery is an iconic and much-loved part of the city’s cultural heritage. When the gallery needed to seismically strengthen and refurbish the buildings, including fire safety design—which were built in 1888 and 1916 respectively—they trusted the challenging work to Holmes’ expert engineers. The final part of the work was to design new space to host an ever-growing number of exhibits. This project required the technical expertise to cope with a challenging seismic ‘retrofit’, combined with the ability to match the character and style of the new space with the existing structure. The existing building – one of the oldest in Auckland – was the first municipal art gallery built in New Zealand and contains the most valuable public art collection in the country.

Retaining the building’s heritage features, sensitive refurbishment and upgrading fire safety was of utmost importance. Key features of the architectural design include the impressive four storey north atrium and the three storey south atrium. The new and refurbished parts of the building required large, interconnected open plan spaces with a high degree of openness and visual connection to adjacent galleries and atria.

Fire Safety Design

The fire safety design involved a challenging mix of conflicting aspirations. As the building has to deliver specific performance requirements, the fire safety engineered solution was equally performance-focused: innovative to suit this client and this architectural design. The regulators expressed concern about the number of design issues that were required to vary from ‘standard fire approaches’ and insisted on an extreme level of engineering justification. Holmes responded with engineering design solutions that addressed the significant challenges of this unique architectural masterpiece.

The fire engineering brief evolved over five years, with contributions from art curators, gallery event managers, international exhibition advisors, architects, security consultants, structural and mechanical services engineers, Fire Service and Auckland Council regulatory reviewers. The final fire safety strategy successfully achieved the outcomes required by the fire engineering brief.

Holmes used computational fluid dynamics analysis to model smoke movement and also evaluated the movement of people in a fire emergency, using a variety of engineering building use scenarios for safety and robustness. The primary public circulation routes are also used as principal fire egress routes (allowing fewer dedicated egress stairs than prescriptive regulatory requirements). Holmes coordinated a detailed review of fire protection requirements in all areas storing and displaying art. Holmes designed the systems controlling fire and smoke spread to protect the building, the art collections and the building occupants. ‘Standard’ solutions for exit signage and security on exit doors were modified to suit the specific requirements for this building.

Seismic Strengthening

The seismic strengthening work started rigorous assessment of the building’s structural needs, drawing on market-leading modelling technology to identify potential weaknesses. The strengthening solution focused on minimising the impact on existing heritage features, creating a robust, resilient structure for the future. The new space included three galleries and two new roof level sculpture terraces, and the addition of a three storey glass atrium structure with a tension rod façade system and tree-like canopies that define and cover the entry forecourt, atrium and gallery areas.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Tāmaki Paenga Hira/Auckland War Memorial Museum is one of New Zealand’s iconic heritage buildings. It is a treasured part of Auckland’s cultural heritage, ‘telling the story of New Zealand’ to a huge number of local, national and international visitors. It’s a site of enormous cultural significance, occupying a commanding position on Auckland’s skyline.

When the structure of the museum needed to be seismically strengthened and modernised, Holmes technical design experts were the logical choice. Our design of this multi-award winning project integrated dramatic architectural and engineering features into a world class facility, bringing a national heritage building into the 21st century.

Structural Strengthening and Fire Design

The museum redevelopment was delivered in two major stages over 12 years. The first stage comprised a well-crafted refurbishment of the existing Historic Places Category I building and exhibition design for all of the gallery spaces. Significant earthquake strengthening and securing works were also undertaken, carefully integrated with existing heritage spaces to preserve the elements that make the building so distinctive and compelling.

The second stage, the Grand Atrium Project, delivered an ambitious, four storey, seven hundred tonne suspended building within the existing courtyard.  An adjacent two-level underground visitor car park was also developed, and overall floor space was increased by 60%. Two storage and curatorial basements were added beneath the stunning ground floor atrium. By utilising a wide variety of performance-based fire engineering design methods, specifically tailored to the constraints imposed by the building’s configuration and uses, Holmes optimised the performance of the egress routes within the addition, minimised the amount of applied fire proofing needed for the structural steelwork and verified the extensive use of architectural timber lining.

Finally, teaching and performance spaces situated within the suspended ‘bowl’ are crowned by the spectacular events centre, under the feature wave dome roof.

Holmes’ engineering services enabled the architect’s original vision for the project to be realised with a minimum of compromise and in a manner that significantly exceeded the client’s expectations.

Blyth Performing Arts Centre

The new Blyth Performing Arts Centre at Iona College, Hawkes Bay sits proudly near the entry to the school. The building houses a 400 seat auditorium, entry foyer and associated back of house and support facilities essential for a performing arts centre environment. The building adopts the use of timber throughout, adding warmth to both the performance space and the building’s exterior. The asymmetric and gracefully curved roof of the building further adds an embracing character to the acoustically refined space.

Holmes undertook a Fire Engineering Briefing (FEB) process for the Performing Arts Centre building, to establish the key parameters for the fire design from relevant project stakeholders prior to the building consent stage. Identified during the briefing process, the fire engineering design also considered the school’s intentions for a future additional stage of works to extend the centre’s facilities.

We provided Performance-Based Engineering design services for the building, which included smoke and egress modelling to determine fire safety compliance within the auditorium and foyer spaces.  This enabled the design to optimise the number and width of egress routes provided within the building, in turn enabling higher utilisation of floor area for public and support activities.  The location and extent of passive fire separations was carefully considered throughout the building to minimise the impact that these would have on theatre functionality and maintenance. Liaison with the local fire brigade also was critical to achieving appropriate fire fighting facilities, whilst minimising the impact of the relevant equipment on the welcoming aesthetic of the building.

ASB Waterfront Theatre

Located in Auckland’s popular Wynyard Quarter, ASB Waterfront Theatre is the first theatre in the Southern Hemisphere to be targeting a 5 Green Star rating for efficiency and sustainability. Offering a 650 seat theatre, it features a glass walled air bridge linking the theatre to the ASB Bank. The public artworks within the theatre have become a major attraction of the building’s design with one of the works featuring 10,000 LED lights, creating an image visible through the theatre’s glass wall.

The building was redesigned in 2012 after an initial preliminary design phase was put on hold. The new design was one of the first buildings in New Zealand to adopt the new C/VM2 Verification method for quantified performance based design. This new design approach was significant, as it allowed Holmes to develop a solution that did not require smoke detection nor a dedicated smoke extract system. This is of huge benefit to a performing arts theatre as it eliminates the risk of false activation of smoke detectors and smoke control systems as theatre effects use haze, dry ice, and artificial smoke. This solution also avoids the need to have an ‘isolate’ facility on the smoke detection and fire alarm system eliminating the need for the stage manager to monitor haze effects and other theatre-created environments which typically play havoc with smoke detection systems. Designing a fire compliant solution without a dedicated smoke extract system, activated with hatches and doors, avoided the inevitable potential compromise into what otherwise needs to be an acoustically sealed auditorium.

Key parts of the steel structure were assessed for adequate fire resistance without the need for passive fire protection, saving on construction cost.

Sydney Town Hall

The iconic Sydney Town Hall is a heritage listed, 1860’s High Victorian style building containing three halls as well as administration areas and the Mayor’s office. The halls are used for events staged by the City of Sydney Council and are also hired out for functions.

The project involved refurbishment works integrated with an extensive fire safety upgrade of the entire building. The key client objectives were increasing the level of fire and life safety and heritage asset protection. The building was required to be partially occupied during the upgrade process.

Holmes worked with the design team including architects, heritage consultants, the NSW Fire Brigades, fire service contractors and The City of Sydney, to formulate a Fire Safety Upgrade Strategy that would achieve the fire safety objectives without altering or destroying the building’s unique heritage fabric and artefacts.

Our team of fire engineers provided solutions to resolve fire safety issues related to occupant egress, fire separation of the stairs and lift shaft, fire hydrant provisions, fire hose reel design, sprinkler design and smoke exhaust. Due to the unique nature of the project and heritage significance of the building, these solutions were developed to not only exceed those of the Building Code of Australia Performance Requirements but also be respectful of the ornate features of the building. Essentially the solutions were created to be in-keeping with the original design so visitors of the space weren’t detracted by the beauty of the building with modern fire systems.

During the construction review process, Holmes developed a number of interim fire safety strategies to resolve critical fire safety issues that were temporarily created during construction.

Throughout the project, Holmes’ role enabled the client to significantly improve the level of fire and life safety and property protection for the refurbished heritage building. This was achieved by delivering interim and final fire safety solutions that met regulatory and stakeholder requirements whilst being heritage sensitive, timely and affordable.