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The 2011 earthquakes caused widespread damage to Canterbury, particularly to the Christchurch city centre. The local community have shown their resilience and determination in rebuilding a city that is not only stronger but that looks to the future with modern and sustainable infrastructure.


 Being a part of the Christchurch community, WSP Opus is proud to be at the forefront of the rebuild and be a part of the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct team.

Making this project an ‘Anchor Project’ showed a commitment from the New Zealand Government to bring staff, business and development back to the CBD, and encouraged other developers and businesses to follow in their lead. The project is also a flagship for ‘Build it Back Green’ with the precinct demonstrating to other developers how green construction can be affordable and have real economic benefits in use.

For such an important project the New Zealand Government turned to its most trusted advisors. WSP Opus, in collaboration with Warren & Mahoney, and Cox, provided architectural design as well as the buildings services design and engineering, and peer review for the 40,000m squared precinct which will house the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police, Department of Corrections, St John New Zealand, the New Zealand Fire Service, Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Christchurch City Council, and Environment Canterbury.

With the aim of setting design standards for the rebuild of Christchurch for sustainability, energy efficiency and safety, WSP Opus harnessed our expertise in innovation and the use of world-class technologies. The entire precinct is heated and cooled by highly efficient ground sourced heat pumps connected to the Christchurch Aquifers, the largest such system to be installed in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world. The precinct proves the viability of the abundant aquifers as a cheap energy source for both heating and cooling for other developments in the CBD.

Office spaces are provided with highly efficient chilled beams and speed controlled ventilation systems throughout. All buildings in the precinct have high rates of fresh air for better environments, and all exhaust air passes through very high efficiency heat recovery systems to compensate. The atrium, the heart of the precinct, is naturally ventilated and makes use of an innovative underfloor cooling loop taken direct from the aquifers below.

Adopting a Building Information Management (BIM) platform, WSP Opus gave stakeholders the opportunity to engage with the building via the virtual platform and to facilitate the review and approval process.

With a building importance level 4, the precinct has seismic resilience to operate immediately after an earthquake and a purpose-built Emergency Operations Centre will ensure state-of-the-art emergency response capability for local and national events. In the event of an emergency, the precinct will have independent power, water and waste disposal for at least 72 hours.

The most significant damage caused by the earthquake to the city’s water pipes, roads, bridges, power lines, and phone lines immediately cut the city off, resulting in tremendous confusion and panic while people desperately tried to contact their friends and families and get back home. Having resilient emergency services infrastructure that can endure unpredictable events like earthquakes is vital.

The Christchurch Precinct puts the needs of the community first. It is the first building-oriented precinct to be delivered to the people of Christchurch as part of the post-earthquake rebuild and embodies to the fullest extent the ideals of the Christchurch Recovery Plan.

Accommodating 1100 people across three buildings for the eight public sector agencies, the Christchurch Precinct is a world class facility that reflects a civic presence, stands for the integrity of the occupants, and of which the people of Christchurch can be proud.

Our collaborative approach was second to none. We were able to work across agencies and capture their requirements to deliver a facility that provides an unprecedented level of integration and performance for both the building occupants and visitors and enhance the legacy of the major South Island city.

The team have all worked collaboratively with stakeholder groups to develop a solution, using world leading Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) initiatives, which allows for the agencies to collaborate easily, provides resilience against future emergencies, lowers the coast of operation and occupancy and delivers an incredible public experience.