AURORA CENTRE

PROJECT TYPE: COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

USE: OFFICE

LOCATION: 56 THE TERRACE, WELLINGTON

CLIENT: KIWI PROPERTIES

ARCHITECTS: WARREN AND MAHONEY; STUDIO PACIFIC

PROJECT TIMEFRAME: 2014-2016

Almost everyone in the company worked on this project at some stage. At its height, up to 320 people were on site daily, while more than 1630 people were inducted onto it over the two years it ran.

The Unisys Building, as it was known, is a 1960s’ tower that has had a complete structural upgrade throughout its 18 floors. The project included demolition of a seven-storey building that sat alongside it in Aurora Terrace and its replacement with a nine-storey annex. The total floor area on completion is over 18,000m2.

A notable feature was the first use in New Zealand of Fluid Viscous Dampers. These act like shock absorbers to dramatically decrease earthquake-induced motion.   

LT McGuinness project managers oversaw the dampers’ design, manufacture and testing before they were installed by a team of carpenters. The testing, to European and American standards, was extremely rigorous. It included freezing the dampers to minus 20 degrees while a testing rig applied massive forces similar to a large earthquake. Retrofitting the dampers into existing tower structure brought it to 90% of the New Building Standard (an A+ seismic grade).

To meet tight deadlines, a challenging two-week rolling handover was built into the programme from early in the project. Walls were painted and carpet laid on completed tower floors while foundations were being excavated and concrete poured for the new Aurora annex.

A host of other efficiencies meant that all deadlines were met, the project was on budget and, and most importantly, all workers and members of the public were kept safe during construction in a busy part of Wellington’s commercial district. The Ministry of Social Development now has a smart new fit-for-purpose base of operations.