Waiparuru Hall, University of Auckland, 35 Whitaker Place: designing a flexible structure that could be built relatively quickly

Waiparuru Hall is a 17-storey, 762 apartment student accommodation complex on Whitaker Place. The University of Auckland wanted a building that could be designed and built as cost effectively as possible in time for the start of the 2020 academic year. The Hall joins the existing international house but has been separated at the lower levels creating two separate towers.

We were engaged very early on as structural engineers to the project. The site is adjacent to the motorway and is steep, so required close collaboration between us, the contractor and the other consultants.

Our role involved concept design through to construction monitoring, which is ongoing. We performed wind analysis and coordinated with the geotechnical engineer on the huge retaining walls that would be needed. The University was considering a range of options so we needed to be flexible in our designs to give them time to make their decisions, while ensuring the project didn’t fall behind schedule.

The contractor was involved from developed design and we were novated at detailed design. Early contractor involvement was useful for testing design decisions.

  • We designed the building to suit various options the client was considering. This gave them longer to make decisions. We also suggested splitting consents to give the University longer to decide what floor and cladding systems they wanted to use.
  • We recommended using a post-tensioned slab to eliminate deep beams. This would speed up construction and reduce the number of trades needed. The contractor was able to show that this was fast and cost-effective in comparison to conventional systems and the client went with it. It gives the University flexibility in future as the building can be totally reconfigured for alternative uses.
  • We have responded, and continue to respond, quickly to contractor RFIs to keep the construction on programme.