There will soon be a tower crane suspended in mid-air over Beach Road in downtown Auckland. It’s the crucial ingredient in building a $40 million, 21-level building on a modest 600m² site, bordering Anzac Avenue, that will ultimately add 9,500m² of living space to the city’s in-demand student accommodation market. The project started in early October and will wrap in mid-2019, and Arrow’s project director Ross Duxfield says the crane, which has an identical partner elsewhere on the site, was a creative solution to a complex brief.
“Two tower cranes are not normal on a job this size, but there’s no other way we could have done it. I suspect other contractors might have passed on the job because they couldn’t see how to get it done.”
The suspended crane above one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares means Arrow can work around not only regular traffic but the national cycleway that runs directly past the construction site. At present, temporary traffic management processes are in place and access to the site is only permitted between 9am and 3pm on weekdays, when traffic can be diverted outside the rush hours.
To keep things moving while minimising disruption, the Arrow crew is also working Saturdays. And in 2018, there are hopes of a more harmonious alliance between contractors, drivers and cyclists with the movement of traffic lights, which will protect the cycleway but divert it away from the site frontage.
Construction in a famously hilly Auckland demands lateral thinking, and the site’s 45-degree angle between Anzac and Beach required, Ross says, “a lot of methodology and consideration in terms of how you put a 30- to 40-ton piling ring on a steep bank. We did quite a bit of very careful planning before we even tendered for the job, and we had a lot of discussions with different contractors to work out what had to be done before we could start building. We went with March Construction, which we felt had the best approach to the job, and March is doing the foundations and piles, and putting in temporary retaining walls in order to build permanent ones.”
Another creative solution is the building’s prefabricated internal wall system, which means levels can be stacked like Lego pieces. Ross says, “The rooms are only 7m² so you can’t move gib board and timber around. The engineers have overdesigned so we can do away with propping the floors and drop in the walls, build the next floor slab above it and pour it. It’s a quick process because there’s not much left behind. The prefab is a huge benefit.”
The prefabricated material is made of leftover wood chip collected from forestry production, reconstituted and compressed into 7.350m x 2.450m panels at the Laminex factory in Taupo. The panels are then painted, cut and stacked to order by Metra Panel Systems, a Huntly company that has been supplying wall and ceiling panels to the New Zealand construction market for nearly 30 years.
Metra Panel’s production manager Andrew Savage says the company is selective about its clients and has worked with Arrow before: “We did the Kakariki House in Hamilton East that become the first green-star-certified building in Waikato. A large part of the business is retirement villages — we have four or five on the go at any one time — and we do a large number of transportable homes out of Huntly, along with some other residential and commercial projects throughout New Zealand.”
Ross joined Arrow earlier this year after a lengthy career with most of New Zealand’s big-name construction companies. He can take credit for the Cider building, which transformed a years-old hole in the ground in Ponsonby into one of the city’s most eye-catching retail and office blocks. The appeal of Arrow, he says, is the “good culture. It’s very people-focused. I could tell even from the interview that there’s a good social thing going on, and that’s something we all want more of these days.”