Timber high-rise tower mooted for Auckland: suggestions on a number of sites

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A building expert wants the Auckland waterfront area to get this country’s first timber high-rise, saying the Wynyard Quarter or Britomart areas would be ideal for a significant wood tower.

Damian Otto, director of design and digital construction at Takapuna-based Tallwood, called for Auckland to go green and build a timber tower of up to 15 levels. That would showcase what could be achieved after technical advancements in timber construction, he said.

“I’ve heard suggestions of wood towers on a number of sites,” he said, naming the Quay Park area as well as the central business district but said nothing was definite and discussions only centred on plans, not finished design.

New Auckland towers are all being built in steel (the 39-level Commercial Bay) and concrete (The Pacifica at 57 levels).

But Otto said that could change.

“Wynyard is the best candidate for a wood building because it’s reclaimed land and above the water. Wood buildings are lighter, so you can build more for less. Timber buildings also perform well in earthquakes. It’s only recently that the timber technology has caught up with materials and availability. There’s going to be a doubling of demand,” Otto said of the type of materials needed to build wood high-rises.

He saw Lendlease’s new wood International House in Sydney during its construction in 2016 and said that had led the way in Australasia. It was now time for us to follow.

“International House is a seven-storey office building manufactured predominantly from engineered timber. It is a great example of the benefits of building tall with timber. There is no reason why we can’t follow in our neighbour’s footsteps and build beautiful, quality, timber buildings such as this one,” Otto said.

Last year, property mogul Sir Bob Jones said he planned to take the timber industry to new heights by erecting the world’s tallest wooden office building in central Wellington on the Leader’s Building on Featherston St: a 12-storey 52m block due to be completed later this year.

Otto said wooden building offered advantages over concrete and steel high-rises because not only were they lighter, making them ideal for reclaimed land, but they could be dismantled and the materials recycled.

Lendlease had designed and built International House with longevity in mind, he said.

“In the words of architect, Alec Tzannes, they reached for a design that would weather well, be long lasting and attractive because ‘buildings that are not considered beautiful tend to be demolished, so beauty is at the essence of our concerns about a lower carbon future’,” Otto said.

International House, although a relatively small project by Lendlease standards, had huge significance in this part of the world, Otto said.

A Tokyo skyscraper is set to become the world’s tallest wooden building. Sumitomo Forestry is planning W350, a 70-storey block made 90 per cent of wooden materials, due to be completed in 2041 and to mark 350 years of that business.

Source:

  • Anne Gibson
  • NZ Herald

 

Competition pushing construction sector into ‘race to the bottom’

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Competition has pushed the construction sector into a “race to the bottom” where companies are taking on projects to win revenue rather than chase profit, says a top industry boss. David Prentice was chief executive for seven years of NZX-listed Opus International Consultants, a multi-disciplinary infrastructure consultancy with 3000 staff that was bought by Canada’s WSP Global in December.

Prentice, who is now leading the integration team at WSP Opus in Wellington, did not wish to comment specifically on issues at Fletcher Building, which last week announced further losses of $660 million at one of its divisions and said it would not be bidding on any new big projects. But speaking about the construction industry generally, Scottish-born Prentice told the Herald earlier this month that the building market was becoming increasingly challenging.

“To design a building 20 years ago you’d need top structural engineers, your top architect, your top mechanical and electrical engineers. Nowadays a lot of this can be done using computer packages and what have you. So what it’s doing is it’s taking the design away from almost an art to a science,” Prentice said. “And what that means is that the margins that can be made on vertical infrastructure such as buildings is far less than it was before, therefore the need to make sure that you’re absolutely on point when you come to do that work is essential because very quickly a very small margin can turn into a very big loss,” he said.

“You always want increased competition but as long as increased competition isn’t a race to the bottom. Unfortunately it has been a race to the bottom so people are going in incredibly tight to actually win revenue, so they’ve been chasing revenue as opposed to chasing profit.” These issues weren’t isolated to New Zealand and around the world people in the building sector were having to work harder “to make an honest buck”, he said.

Prentice believed that the way in which contracts were procured needed to change as right now the client or customer was pushing all the risk to a consultant or contractor. “The best contracts without a shadow of a doubt are those contracts where risks are explicitly shared between all three parties, consultant, contractor and client … I think the client and the customers, particularly central and local government, have got a long way to go in respect of maturity in how they procure projects.”

Prentice’s comments were echoed by Registered Master Builders Association boss David Kelly. “We need to work with government to improve the way we manage pricing and risk in our sector,” Kelly said. “Government procurement should not be an exercise in one party minimising all their risk. At the end of the day, all parties need to commit to working collaboratively and equitably to deliver on a project. Anyone building or renovating a home, let alone a multi million dollar construction project, appreciates that there needs to be some flexibility in adjusting for costs”, he said.

“We need to move away from focusing on cheapest initial price — this never gets the best result, limits innovation and stifles research and development,” he said. In the wake of Fletcher Building saying it would not bid for any more big construction work, Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said any company with big projects would consider using overseas firms, including from China. “We like many others in New Zealand would like to see a proper and well-functioning construction industry [here].

There are also a bunch of European operators who have acquired New Zealand businesses and operate in New Zealand,” Littlewood said on Friday. Overseas firms would have to draw on New Zealand sub-trades if they were involved in big projects as it was difficult to import all the skills. Auckland Airport is spending $1.8 billion over five years on building infrastructure and Fletcher Building is involved in one phase of the Airport’s big build — the international departures terminal. Littlewood said Fletcher’s focus on completing projects was important for his company.

Source:

  • Hamish Fletcher
  • NZ Herald
  • Photo: Getty Images

$200m hotel ready for 2018

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Prime Minister John Key says a million Chinese tourists will soon be visiting here annually.

Making his prediction at a ground-breaking ceremony for Auckland’s new $200 million Park Hyatt, Key told more than 100 dignitaries in a waterfront marquee how he expected massive growth.

Quipping how he expected to be at the new five-star hotel regularly because he is often at events in hotels, Key said China was New Zealand’s second biggest market for tourists after Australia.

About 371,000 Chinese tourists now visit New Zealand annually.

“The question is ‘how long will it take before there’s one million?” he asked of annual Chinese visitor arrivals. “I would have thought within about three to four years there will be one million tourists from China alone,” he said.

Tourism New Zealand says China is New Zealand’s second largest visitor market.

“Its growing middle-class has seen sustained growth in Chinese visitor arrivals to New Zealand over the last five years. Increased air capacity from the two direct carriers, China Southern Airlines and Air New Zealand – with new players Air China and China Eastern also establishing year-round services in 2015 – has helped this trend,” Tourism NZ says.

Key was with a businesswoman said to be China’s wealthiest to turn the first sod at the site of the new hotel.

Madam Chan Laiwa, founder of Chinese real estate business Fu Wah, visited the Halsey St site in the Wynyard Quarter/Viaduct Harbour area, opposite ASB North Wharf.
She accompanied Key into the marquee to the call of a kaikaranga.

Source:

  • Anne Gibson
  • NZ Herald

 

Billion dollar bonanza

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Artists impression of new build for Auckland CBD

New Zealand’s largest private property developer is planning projects worth more than $1 billion.

Culum Manson, a director of Parnell-headquartered Mansons TCLM, said the business was the busiest it had been in its 40 year history.

“We’ve got over $1 billion of work planned and not yet announced, including a $120 million asset and a $210 million asset, both in the CBD,” Manson said.

The $1 billion-plus of new work was the result of the need for tenants to upgrade their office space.

“We’re thinking about who might need upgrading in the next few years,” he said of the new projects.

The family firm’s biggest scheme is the $675 million 30-level office tower and 125-room hotel tower at 46 Albert St on the site where the Herald has been published for 152 years.

“The biggest project we have on is Albert St,” he said of the site spanning Mills Lane, Albert St, Wyndham St and Swanson St. Buildings there are now being progressively vacated by about 850 staff for NZME Central, Mansons’ 151 Victoria St premises.

No naming rights have been announced for that new five-star block but that is expected soon when the top floor tenancy lease is announced.

Law firm Meredith Connell has also leased space in the building.

Early last month, Prime Minister John Key officially opened NZME Central, acknowledging the rapidly changing nature of media and the importance of the shift into the new premises.

Manson said planning work for the new buildings on the Herald site was under way.

“We could start demolition of 46 Albert St [at the] end of the first quarter next year, although I’ve got to say it’s not a priority at the moment because we’re still focused on finishing off 151 [Victoria St West] and getting started with all these other jobs,” he said.

“Also, we’re still working with Auckland Transport and Auckland Council on finalising the resource consent for the old Herald site and that’s taken longer than we anticipated, mainly around transport implications of the City Rail Link and a whole lot of moving parts that need to be considered.

“It’s frustrating but we’re all living in the same city and we’re all got to deal with it.”

A Colliers International’s Auckland office vacancy survey showed strong demand and the lowest overall vacancy rate recorded since the studies started. Colliers said it was not just the CBD and fringes which displayed strong demand, but office vacancies had also dropped on the North Shore, Mt Wellington, Penrose and throughout east Auckland.

Source:

  • Anne Gibson
  • NZ Herald

Luxury apartments for Christchurch

getimage (15)Christchurch’s tallest post-quake apartment complex is about to take shape opposite Cranmer Square. To be called West Kilmore Precinct, a $40 million plus complex will be erected 11 storeys tall with apartments priced between $450,000 and at least $1.2 million. The site is the corner of Kilmore St and Cranmer Square where Ernst and Young House stood before the quakes.

Christchurch property developer Grant MacKinnon is behind the project. His previous projects include the now-demolished Gallery Apartments in Gloucester St. MacKinnon has an investor he does not wish to name, but confirmed it was a local now living overseas. Although building height restrictions in the area were lowered to 11 metres in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, MacKinnon has existing use rights to build more than twice as high.

West Kilmore Precinct will consist of four buildings with different heights. Stage one will have 15 one and two bedroom apartments priced from $450,000 to $950,000, and is due to be finished in winter. Stage two will be two-connected buildings finished in mid-2017. They will be 11-storeys high with 35 apartments of up to three bedrooms and priced from $500,000 to $1.2 million. The third stage had not been finalised but would have six ‘‘higher end’’ apartments.

getimage (16)The complex will be full height facing north, with roof heights stepped down towards the south. MacKinnon bought the property in 2012 with the apartment plan in mind. He believes it is one of the best sites in the city, with views over both Cranmer Square and Hagley Park. About 20 of the apartments are pre-sold or under option. However he described the highend apartment market in the central city as difficult. ‘‘It’s a hard market to work in. Lots of people are looking and some are buying, but they’re careful”. ‘‘But we are appealing to some people. It’s a small number and there is still some nervousness about coming back into the central city but that’s rapidly falling away.’’

MacKinnon said he was pleased to see other apartment developments in the area. These include developer New-Urban Group’s Chinese-backed low-rise 30-apartment plan for the old Cranmer Courts site across the road, and the eight-storey Verve Precinct apartments going up to replace The Est@blishment on Peterborough St. ‘‘It’s encouraging that other people are doing it as well, as long as they do it right,’’ MacKinnon said.

Other apartment developments have failed to get traction, including the Miro complex planned for Colombo St and the Crown-run Breathe urban village project opposite Latimer Square. Real estate agent Mark O’Loughlin of Harcourts, who is marketing West Kilmore and specialises in central city apartment developments, said demand was coming from younger owners or investors wanting ‘‘affordable’’ apartments, and ‘‘younger baby boomers’’ looking for a lifestyle.

There was very little demand for family apartments in the central city, he said. O’Loughlin said there seemed to be a recent groundswell of buyers looking at inner city apartments, and he had sold more in the past six months than at any time since the quakes.

Source:

  • The Press
  • Liz McDonald

Innovation Precinct draws them in!

getimage55It’s considered the star performer of Christchurch’s anchor projects. And it has taken the gravity effect – of larger bodies attracting smaller ones around them – to make it work. The Innovation Precinct has several buildings taking shape around the corner of Tuam and High streets. While anchor tenants gear up to shift in, smaller operators are rushing to book space alongside them. As a result, an estimated 1500 office workers will be in the precinct by next year.

Broadly designed as part of the city’s 2012 blueprint, the precinct is intended to be a cluster of knowledge, software, electronics and other tech-type businesses. Mixed-use zoning rules mean cultural and educational groups and restaurants and bars can join them. Public spaces and laneways created by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) will intersect the precinct, making space for work and play.

The precinct got off the drawing board when Auckland developers Studio D4 spotted land around the old Lichfield Lanes complex, signed up Kathmandu and Vodafone as tenants, and got approval for two new buildings. It then handed the project onto southern-based developer Calder Stewart. Others have followed. Christchurch developer Peebles Group took on the wrecked McKenzie and Willis building opposite and is putting up two new buildings behind its heritage facade, and renovating another on the site.

The old ANZ Chambers site on the High-Lichfield corner has just been sold for development, and a new project is understood to be proposed for the Excelsior site opposite. Hospitality businesses have also taken the leap of faith. Tenants including Brick Farm and Dux Central have joined existing operator C1 in taking space in repaired buildings, while others such as Joe’s Garage have leased space in those still under construction. CBRE leasing agent Bonnie Stone said the precinct was filling a gap in the market. Rents and operating costs were lower there than in other parts of the rebuild.

Stone said the culture was attracting ‘‘smaller less-corporate businesses, and tech businesses who want to be near the likes of Vodafone and Wynyard’’. ‘‘It’s a slightly different model to what’s being built in other parts of the city centre. With the new and refurbished old buildings and cool spaces, it’s not like where the big accountants and law firms are going. ‘‘We want everyone to come back in, not just the big tenants, to create the lively city everyone wants.’’

Fellow agent Ryan Geddes, of Savills, said the precinct had ‘‘really good legs’’. ‘‘It just took off with the commitment with the bigger firms.’’ First finished will be the Kathmandu headquarters and the carpark building, complete with art display screens, next door. Both have March completion dates. The Vodafone building and the Cera courtyard alongside it will be ready in April, and the Wynyard precinct opposite will be finished about September.

Meanwhile, the Government and Canterbury Development Corporation’s GreenHouse incubator for fledgling information tech businesses has opened, alongside hospitality places. Studio D4 has one last development planned in the block – a new office building three or four storeys high. Also going in are the Information and Communications Technology Graduate School, and government agency Callaghan Innovation.

The opening of the precinct is likely to trigger occupation of upper High St, which has stayed fenced off since the quakes. Paul Naylor, co-owner of Studio D4, said it just took a few bold businesses to encourage others to commit to space in the precinct. ‘‘I don’t think any one wanted to be there all alone in a desert. But now there’s a lot happening and it’s looking great – by next year we are going to have a prime area. ‘‘People have rushed to it, it’s fantastic.’’

Source:

  • Liz McDonald
  • The Press

Crane’s on the up!

b05da9d38926ca2edb40cabe148a38a0ab0f51fd_620x310The Rider Levett Bucknall Crane Index revealed that Auckland is the country’s crane capital with 33 followed by Christchurch with 31.

Auckland director Chris Haines said there were now 79 cranes up nationally and the busiest sectors were commercial followed by multi-level residential buildings.

In the past six months 43 new cranes were installed nationally: 17 in Auckland and 23 in Christchurch.

The crane count provides a good, simple indication of new building activity as well as general economic activity in each of these locations, the business said.

The index tracked activity in the last quarter in Auckland and showed that within the commercial sector, three cranes were erected including on Datacom in Gaunt St and at Britomart. Commercial projects nearing completion include the St Albans development and Mansons in Victoria St West, Rider Levett Bucknall said.

“The Wynyard Quarter currently has three tower cranes. While five cranes have been removed from residential sites , 10 have been erected. New projects include The Pulse, Symonds St, Wakefield St, Augustus Tce, Rosedale Rd, Swanson St, Rangitiri Rd and Windsor Park,” Rider said. “Cranes have been removed from Howe St, Newton Rd, Exmouth Tce, Carlaw Park and Karangahape Rd. In the civil sector, cranes have been removed from Waterview Tunnel, the Lincoln Rd widening project and Te Atatu interchange but three cranes have been sighted on the SH20A roads and bridge works … ”

Source:

  • NZ Herald
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