Frame Apartments, New Zealand

Aurecon comes in at the ground floor to build up Frame Apartments

There is no doubt that New Zealand is having challenges around the availability of housing. This is particularly evident in the major city of Wellington on the country’s North Island. Finding somewhere to live is becoming increasingly difficult as the city’s population swells.

One project that has generated additional apartment living for Wellington residents is the 17-level Frame Apartments. As one of the city’s tallest apartment buildings, the complex boasts a total of 54 one and two-bedroom apartments.

Aurecon collaborated with design and construct partner Arrow International and architects Archaus to create a structural engineering solution that enabled the Frame Apartments to be built to the client’s requirements. At the core of the successful partnership was the creation of a common mind-set of collaboration and the establishment of an open and trustworthy work environment.

This was highlighted by Aurecon’s Technical Director, Built Environment, John Finnegan when he commented that to design the building’s structural solution was no easy feat. Wellington is an incredibly windy city and is subject to significant seismic activity, and apartment buyers today expect resilience from tall buildings.  John concluded that it took a unified project team with strong knowledge and communication to achieve the best outcome for the Frame Apartments.

An award-winning structural solution

Aurecon knew that an innovative approach was required and that not only was the construction method important, so were the construction materials.

The resulting reinforced concrete structure provided the required combination of stiffness and resilience, with a construction method design that minimised material wastage and build time. The structure was also rigid enough to withstand high winds and durable enough to withstand unexpected seismic events.

The sustainable use of concrete was recognised at the Concrete Sustainability Awards where the project took out the Excellence in Residential Concrete Construction Award 2018. The concrete solution was praised for its rapid in-site construction and the associated advantages of robustness and resilience. The judges commented on how the approach would no doubt gain greater uptake as the need for medium-density housing continues to grow in response to a growing population in New Zealand’s major centres.

The concrete wall system

The exterior walls of the building were constructed using an auto-climbing formwork system. This proposed system allowed multiple storeys to be constructed before craning in the rib-and infill precast floor system and internal framing. It allowed the external walls to be constructed without interference to the inside of the building.

The reusable formwork system meant less waste on site as the single system kept climbing skywards as construction progressed. So reusable it is, that the same formwork is now being used on a different building project in New Zealand. The accuracy of the formwork meant that concrete wastage was drastically reduced compared with a traditional concrete building, and as each level progressed workers had a readymade secure platform to work internally from.

Whilst this concrete exterior wall was structurally efficient and economical to build, it served another purpose – aesthetics. The architectural intent for the building was that internal concrete walls would be visible to residents and part of the appeal in purchasing an apartment.

Realising the architectural intent with thermal mass

The exposed concrete walls became the visible feature of the development, with the colourful panels visible from the exterior providing the necessary insulation for the structure.

This form of construction also utilised the concrete’s thermal mass as part of an overall passive solar design, which will help to minimise future heating and cooling demands, and in turn boost health and wellbeing.

The building has achieved a rigid and resilient structural form while still allowing its residents to enjoy the hillside and harbour views from their apartments.

Completed in 2018, Frame Apartments is one of Wellington’s tallest residential buildings and a testament to how unique function, design, and innovation can be combined to create an enduring property that works within its environment while further enhancing the urban fabric of the city. 

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