9 1 HFHL Southwest Perspective Novak Middleton

Higgins Family Holdings Ltd Head Office


Architects: Novak+Middleton / Structural Engineers: Silvester Clark / Contractor: Colspec

9. Hybrid building award

Photographed by: 
Novak+Middleton / Kevin Bills Media

Designed to encourage sustainable construction in the growing Manawatu region through precedent, the new head office for Higgins Family Holdings Ltd features a combination of timber and concrete, achieving both a high-quality interior environment for the team and requirements for Green Star certification (rating pending at the time of writing).

There was a natural tension between designing a building to minimise embodied carbon and to showcase the client’s own range of concrete products. The design team responded by utilising both in-situ and pre-cast concrete elements on the ground floor, and mass timber structure on the upper floor. Not only does the mass timber sequester some carbon into the structure, but the exposed concrete on the ground floor gives excellent thermal mass to these areas.

The contrasting structural systems accentuate the programmatic difference between the lower level service areas and the open workspaces of the upper level, with the transition between concrete and timber expressed as a dramatic feature of the double height entry foyer and stair. The interface between the materials is further explored with the off-board finish to the concrete fin wall that extends full length along the approach and into the building entrance.

The glulam portals combined with pairs of steel CHS braces in the longitudinal direction provide all of the bracing for the upper level, permitting generous open workspaces and internal partitioning that can be easily reconfigured for future flexibility.

The openness permitted by the timber portal structure emphasises the building’s strong uncomplicated form and maximises the potential for natural light and views for the workspaces, heightening the experience of the site. This creates a sense of shelter in close connection with its context and environment, giving the feeling of being close to the elements but protected from them at the same time.

Construction methodology and safety on site was prioritised in the design process, with building components developed in conjunction with the structural and services engineers to minimise work at heights in particular. The glulam portal columns and beams played a significant role in streamlining construction, as these were able to be fabricated off-site, and the junctions detailed to facilitate on site assembly. The steel roof structure could then be assembled on-ground and lifted into position on top of the portal frames, and the modular glazed envelope and Kaynemaile screen elements then lifted into place around the building, eliminating the need for scaffolding.

The materials selected for this building are simple and robust, recognising the industrial nature of the location and availability of local resources, with the timber structure in particular enabling the building to meet the project’s Green Star requirements. The use of concrete finishes is balanced with the natural warmth and texture provided by the timber elements featured throughout, and the two structural systems come together into a cohesive architectural composition delivering a high level of quality and amenity for the client’s work environment.