Terracotta tiled and glazed external façade and link bridge connecting to Ernst Rutherford building

Beatrice Tinsley Building



4. Mid-rise building design award

Photographed by: 
Andre Kirstein

The Beatrice Tinsley building is an innovative and sustainable design exemplifying seismic resilience and provides a low-carbon prototype proving timber delivers a viable solution for mid/ large-scale construction in New Zealand.

Key to the design was the need to replace the original earthquake damaged concrete structure forming the von Haast building whilst retaining and building over the 1960s concrete basement containing critical campus wide live services. Low damage design principles were high priority to avoid future disruption to UC should another large seismic event occur. The site was space-constrained being on an operating campus and located between adjoining buildings, limiting access for large construction machinery. The use of timber mitigates significant disruption and cost to campus wide operations by enabling the entire frame to be constructed at ground level and lifted into place. On a tight site this would be impossible with heavier construction materials. Ambitions for the building were to use and showcase an engineered timber structural system developed through research undertaken at UC allowing the structural system to be a living teaching tool for new students. Along the length of the building, diagonal timber cross bracing spread the lateral loads, eliminating highly concentrated loads to the furthermost extent on the old basement walls. This avoided strengthening requirements and reflected the Buckling Restrained Braces of the neighbouring Ernest Rutherford building proving timber provides the lightweight solution underpinning other high performance design outcomes.

The timber moment-frame removed requirements for shear walls, enabling open plan teaching spaces to be located on the ground floor. Adopting the 13.5m wide footprint established by utilising the retained foundations provides flexibility for future internal planning options. Elements were prefabricated off-site at Nelson Pine Industries with locally sourced timber. Exposed timber ceilings and ceiling services make maintenance and adaptation straightforward.

Office accommodation is interconnected with an open stair connecting all floors, supporting UC’s culture of inter-disciplinary connection and collegiality. Timber provides a warm and tactile interior with biophilic and health benefits and the open plan design is a showcase of timber design.

The pioneering Beatrice Tinsley building is the tallest moment framed post-tensioned timber LVL structure to be built in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also the first multi-storey building combining both timber moment-frames and cross-braces to be constructed in New Zealand and includes the use of Potius timber floor cassettes and CLT exterior wall panels and stairs, forming a compelling ‘all-timber’ solution. The patented timber framing technology was developed at UC by Civil and Natural Resources Engineering professors under the name ‘Pres-Lam’. This is a post-tensioned seismic, damage resistant system capable of self-righting, and with sacrificial elements, also reduces the effect of major structural repairs following a seismic event.

The design welds two key strategies – timber construction and adaptive re-use of pre-existing structural elements, to achieve industry-leading carbon reductions, proving to be the lowest cost option compared to steel and concrete for this project.

The building is designed so that it may be disassembled, and components reused at end-of-life, contributing to a circular economy.