NZi3 Innovation Institute Building

Structural Designer

Beca

Client Name

University of Canterbury

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The New Zealand ICT Innovation Institute at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch has the aim of being a globally-recognised centre of technical innovation, bridging the gap between academic research and its application by industry. The design brief required a building that would be flexible in use and adaptable for the future, and which would foster communication, innovation and creativity.

The choice of suspended trussed box structure, resting upon a simple and minimal arrangement of reinforced concrete cross walls, inherently delivers unobstructed internal space while ensuring clearly defined load paths, thus facilitating safe structural action under severe seismic conditions. The open-plan layout encourages the communication and interaction so crucial to the development of innovative activity.

The structure is set externally to the main volume of the building and has that refined deceptively simple appearance, which only comes about as a result of unrelenting effort to pare away the non-essential. The long-span prestressed concrete, first floor member seating details have been innovatively devised to enable close-tolerance ‘invisible’ connection to the main truss steelwork.

The structural engineering solution also plays a critical role in the overall environmental performance of the building by facilitating the provision of external shading, thereby minimising internalised solar gains. The floor plate and thin-skin phase-change ceiling materials make use of passive thermal mass technology to minimise cooling loads.

The NZi3 building is a world-class advertisement for the high-tech activities that it houses, forcefully conveying the message that the future is being defined within this innovative glass, concrete and steel structure.

Judge's comment:

"NZi3 represents that synthesis of art and science, essential in top-quality structural engineering design, in which the structure makes use of appropriate nature, layout and materials in order to reflect, allow and enhance the effective functioning of the building. Truly, a project to be proud of."