A premium environment for occupiers and public
New technology enables business resilience
Flexible design aids a nimble business
High profile Wellington site to be reactivated by new buildings and laneways
Precinct Properties has plans for two new buildings on a site in Bowen Street near the Beehive and is looking for corporate or government occupiers keen to secure the benefits of a new build.
Precinct Properties, owner of the newly refurbished Bowen State and Charles Fergusson buildings, has plans to develop another 20,000sqm of ‘high performance work space’ adjacent to the Beehive at 40 and 44 Bowen Street. Precinct is inviting enquiry now from both corporate and government organisations.
The buildings promise to reinvigorate the parliamentary precinct, says Senior Development Manager, Ryan Carter. “The Charles Fergusson and Bowen State buildings have been leased to government agencies from 2019 through to 2032. These two buildings alone will bring 3,500 people into the area. The addition of the two new buildings will complete Bowen Campus and bring the number of occupants across the four buildings to 5,000.”
Key to the building’s appeal will be the design’s flexibility on two fronts – firstly, the large, open plan floorplates and tailorable fitout, and, secondly, the ability of the buildings to resist multiple earthquakes without sustaining damage and impacting business continuity.
Architect Ewan Brown of Tennent Brown says that 40 and 44 Bowen are designed to cater to contemporary ways of working. Floor to ceiling glass and ceiling heights of 2.95m will maximise the light and views. Tennent Brown has tested a number of trial fitouts within the buildings to maximise the flexibility of the floor space. Occupiers will have the opportunity to work with Precinct to tailor the final fitout to their needs. Large organisations have the option of occupying both buildings. Naming rights are also on offer and the site has high visibility for commuters coming into the city.
Numbers 40 and 44 Bowen will be only the third new project in New Zealand to employ ‘fluid viscous dampers’ in the structural frame. The dampers work in a similar way to the shock absorbers in your car. The technology is common in California and Japan and Brown predicts it will become increasingly common in Wellington.
Brown says the buildings will reactivate a pocket of the city. Having a single owner in Precinct Properties means that 40 and 44 Bowen, Bowen State and Charles Fergusson can be treated as a precinct. The campus masterplan creates a network of partially covered laneways which will offer shelter from the wind and rain and attractive, landscaped public spaces.
The new buildings’ most visible face will be on Bowen Street and the architects have designed a faceted or ‘rippled’ façade that will create interesting reflections for passers-by. A generous, recessed colonnade will provide a covered walkway for pedestrians.
“The rippled façade and the laneways are designed to humanise the site. We wanted to include rather than exclude the public,” says Brown. “We know that people come from Thorndon across the Hill Street bridge and there’s some steps and a pathway that leads down to the railway station and the bottom of the Terrace. The site has been closed off for a few years so we’re reinstating and enhancing those pedestrian routes.”
Five thousand workers creates a critical mass that will keep the laneways active and support retail and food and beverage offerings. “The quality of these buildings is very high, particularly structurally, and a lot of work has gone into the user experience,” says Brown. “We’ve focused on making sure it’s not just a place of work but that the whole journey through the site, and to and from work, is enjoyable.”
Carter says that the fact that Precinct develops and retains its buildings is attractive to clients. “We have an investment philosophy based on the long-term ownership of our assets. That influences our decision-making in relation to design and construction. We look to develop and own high-quality, low maintenance buildings and we pride ourselves on being able to anticipate change and offer flexibility to our clients.”
New Wellington buildings employ ‘shock absorbers’ to limit earthquake damage
Two new office buildings planned for a site near the Beehive will utilise technology common in California and Japan to allow their structure to bend and flex in multiple earthquakes over several decades without sustaining or accumulating damage. Precinct Properties, developer and owner of the buildings’, says that the ‘fluid viscous dampers,’ which work like the shock absorbers on your car, will help protect occupiers and avoid interruptions to business continuity.
The 2016 Kaikoura quake packed a mighty punch, accounting for more than 70% of all the energy released by all NZ earthquakes combined in seven years (180 times the energy released by the 2011 Christchurch quake). Only the depth of the earthquake saved New Zealand from far greater tragedy.
In the aftermath of the initial event, tenants of many relatively modern buildings were confident they would be ‘back in’ within days, only to find themselves working from home or the local café for months when testing revealed unexpectedly high levels of structural damage. Wellington was full of corporate gypsies, separated from their teams and working remotely in environments that hindered their productivity.
A year after the Kaikoura quake a report by commercial real estate firm Colliers estimated 100,000 square metres of office space was still out of action, enough to house about 7000 workers.
Alistair Cattanach, an engineer and director of Dunning Thornton says that, post-quake, he is pleased to witness a growing appetite among developers and investors to go beyond the minimum standard required by the Building Code and embrace ‘low damage design’.
Dunning Thornton is currently working with Tennent Brown architects on the design of a pair of buildings at 40 and 44 Bowen Street, located between the Beehive and the motorway, which provide a case in point. The client, Precinct Properties, has specifically requested that ‘low damage technologies’, which radically increase a building’s seismic resilience, be utilised.
Among other design elements, the engineers are specifying viscous fluid dampers. Viscous dampers look like the hydraulic arm on a bulldozer and work in a similar way to the shock absorbers in your car. They are bolted to walls, floors, beams and other structural elements to tie them to each other. They work by pushing a viscous fluid such as lead or silicon through a small hole between two chambers and back, producing a damping pressure which helps dissipate the kinetic energy of the earthquake and cushion the impact between structures. The Bowen Street project is likely to be the third new build project in New Zealand to employ the dampers in the structural frame. A handful of other buildings have been retrofitted with dampers.
“Viscous dampers mean you don’t need to do much more to a conventional building to significantly increase its performance in a seismic event,” says Cattanach.
The dampers can be tuned to reduce movement or acceleration in an earthquake. Dunning Thornton has opted for reducing the acceleration. Cattanach says it is not the movement you feel in an earthquake, but the change in velocity as the building sways one way and back the other, lifts and drops. To reduce movement the building would have to be made more rigid. Like harder shock absorbers in a car, the occupants would be in for a harder ride. “We’ve not wanted to make these buildings any stiffer because they’ve been designed to take a lot of movement anyway. We’ve tuned them to reduce the acceleration which stops all the contents of the building overturning and reduces the disruption for the tenant.”
Once everyone is safe and accounted for the secondary benefits of the technology kick in. Earthquakes stretch the steel in a building, whether that be steel framed or steel reinforced concrete construction. And, of course, concrete doesn’t stretch. It cracks. A conventional building has a finite number of seismic cycles it can go through before it is unsafe and must be repaired or demolished. Viscous dampers allow the building to absorb seismic energy without accumulating damage meaning tenants are able to reoccupy their building shortly after an initial event and stay there during the sometimes long months of aftershocks. The dampers don’t need replacing. They are hydraulic rather than mechanical and the viscous material inside doesn’t change or degrade.
“That’s one of the key advantages,” says Cattanach. “The building can go through a series of aftershocks and the engineer doesn’t have to keep coming back and checking how much of the capacity of the structure has been used up by each of those aftershocks.”
Cattanach points out that engineers never know how big the next earthquake will be. To make a building stronger they have to add more structure, which adds expense and uses up lots of the internal space. Strong buildings are often ugly to look at and inhabit. Rather than designing a building that will withstand a one in 500-year event only to have a one in 1000-year event occur, Cattanach says it’s all about designing to absorb the earthquake’s energy by applying a range of carefully chosen design elements.
The Bowen Street project also employs a steel frame, which performs better than reinforced concrete, and bracing that puts its seismic resilience well ahead of a conventional building even before the addition of the fluid viscous dampers. All of these moves combine to not only protect life and limb in ‘the big one’, but keep your business operational through untold numbers of small, moderate and scary shakes and their aftershocks.
“Because of the adoption of these technologies tenants have a greater choice about the kind of building they move into,” says Cattanach. “And because of the Kaikoura quake, they now understand why exercising that choice is important.”
New Bowen Street buildings designed to aid business continuity after earthquakes
Two new office buildings planned for 40 and 44 Bowen Street are designed to provide businesses with resilience, equipping them with flexible floorspace that enables greater agility and buffering them against disruption from earthquakes.
Precinct Properties, one of Wellington’s largest commercial property investors, with $700m in assets in the CBD, is planning a pair of new, midrise office buildings for Bowen Street. The buildings will provide a total of around 20,000sqm of floorspace.
Architect, Ewan Brown of Tennent Brown, says that the buildings are designed to cater to contemporary ways of working and have the added benefit of incorporating ‘low damage design’ which will allow the tenants to reoccupy their building quickly after an earthquake and to remain there during the long aftershock sequences that were a feature of the Kaikoura and Christchurch quakes.
The Bowen Street buildings will be only the third new build project in New Zealand to employ fluid viscous dampers in the structural frame. The dampers are one of a number of tactics aimed at minimising disruption to occupiers during seismic activity. The dampers work like the shock absorbers in your car, allowing the building to move while dissipating seismic energy. The technology prevents the building accumulating damage over multiple earthquakes and many years.
“I think the technology is logical for Wellington. It ensures a much higher level of safety and business continuity for clients. We were lucky with the Kaikoura earthquake that everybody escaped safely but when you’re out of your building for a long time it causes long term implications,” says Brown.
“During the Kaikoura quake we lost a lot of buildings. It takes a long time to replace them, so that leads to all sorts of productivity problems with people working remotely. You break up teams.”
Tennent Brown has tested a number of trial fitouts within the buildings to maximise the flexibility of the floor space. Occupiers will have the opportunity to tailor the fitout to their needs within open plan floorplates. Floor-to-ceiling glass (2.95m) will maximise the light and views of the city and Tinakori Hill.
“Across our portfolio we are seeing occupiers utilising flexible floorplates to reshape the way their business works,” says Precinct’s Development Manager, Ryan Carter. “Businesses are opting for open, transparent spaces and floors which are connected vertically with staircases to encourage collaboration, and also to promote impromptu interactions. Another trend is the use of more mobile technology and portable furniture so that the business can adapt and change quickly.”
The new buildings will form part of the ‘Bowen Campus’ alongside their neighbours, the newly refurbished Bowen State and Charles Fergusson buildings, also owned by Precinct. Once fully occupied the four buildings will bring 5000 new people into the area. The arrangement of all four buildings on the site will create a network of landscaped laneways that provide sheltered places to sit and move through on foot.
Brown says the architects have focused on humanising the site and including rather than excluding the public. The Bowen Street façade, for example, is faceted to create interesting reflections, and includes a recessed colonnade supported by V columns which provides a wide, covered walkway which is protected from the prevailing northerly. “We’ve done wind testing to make sure people will have choices of places to sit and walk depending on the weather and the wind direction,” says Brown.
The Bowen Street site is at the nexus of a number of transport nodes, including rail and bus. End of trip facilities (such as showers and changing rooms) and secure storage for 350 bikes will also encourage cycling or walking to and from work. The Bowen Campus laneways will incorporate new retail and cafés. Just around the corner on Museum St, a pocket park featuring three large works by sculptor Brett Graham, is a popular place for workers to have lunch.