Aurecon expertise behind wooden ‘pallet pavilion’

Conceptual drawing, Gap Filler Summer Pallet Pavilion by day/by night. Yun Kong Sung, Studio OKAN, 2012.

16 October 2012 - Aurecon engineers in the Christchurch office have been able to unleash their creativity in helping design a wooden “pallet pavilion” to be used as a music venue over the summer.

Using 2500 wooden pallets, it will be built on the site of the Crowne Plaza hotel, which had to be pulled down after being badly damaged in the February 2011 earthquake.

The pavilion will have four-metre high walls, will take three weeks to construct and will remain in place until April. It is hoped to open in November.

Gap Filler, which has been transforming the city’s empty lots into community spaces since the earthquakes, will project manage the construction with Aurecon staff providing structural and fire engineering expertise on a pro bono basis as part of the firm’s commitment to the community. Aurecon staff have already worked on several pro bono projects.

Simon Taylor, Buildings manager for Aurecon’s Christchurch offices, said that his team has been really enthusiastic about the project, which has brought some interesting technical challenges but great satisfaction for those involved.

Structural engineer Luis Castillo has been working with other Aurecon staff including Mark Willard, who acted as a design partner and put together the calculation summary that was submitted for consent. David Elliott, as a Lead Structural Engineer, provided feedback throughout the design process especially for the calculation approach undertaken. Rose So-Beer helped to assess and calculate the possibility of adapting some sails roofs for the pavilion in a particular stage of the design process. Paul Martini was involved from the beginning as a Fire Engineer, providing the architects with valuable feedback to minimise the intrinsic risk affecting a venue built using timber pallets, plus the calculations that were submitted for consent.

“Everything about this project was completely unusual as pallets are totally different to what we regularly work with for structural and architectural purposes.

“From the beginning I insisted on the idea that we had to “play” with the pallets at a design session in conjunction with the architects. This was very beneficial as it helped us to have the right feeling for what we were dealing with.

“As a direct result the initial design was optimised to become more efficient for structural and construction purposes and at the same time helped the architectural design process to enhance the transparency of the venue, this,  being one of the most important architectural factors always considered from the initial idea.

“This turned out to be one of those things in which you like to push the boundaries beyond the limit and succeed in doing something completely mind-blowing as a design.

“We had a very limited time schedule and no previous experience on how to make the pallets work as a structural element; so we had to dwell in a “thinking-out-of the-box” experience and concentrate on arriving at a design that would do the job in being efficient, safe and achievable but at the same time not losing the “wow” factor everyone would be expecting.

“In all facets, I think we succeeded,” he said.

The site will be a kind of “secret garden” on a vacant site, full of greenery. The blue pallets have been loaned by CHEP and will go back into circulation and the temporary foundations are recycled sections of the Clarendon Tower floor, another building that is being deconstructed after the earthquakes. These sections have another life waiting as they will be used as culvert bridges on farms.