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Upgrading and rejuvenating the centrepiece of the Christchurch Girls’ High School boarding hostel

The centrepiece of Christchurch Girls’ High School boarding hostel, the Old House was severely damaged during the earthquakes. It’s now been repaired and upgraded while conserving its heritage features

The Old House is the heart of Acland House - the Christchurch Girls’ High School boarding hostel. Used as accommodation for students, it was originally built in 1893 and has been the high school’s boarding hostel since 1921. During the Christchurch earthquakes, the Old House suffered significant damage and it was closed in 2011.

Following a review period, it was decided that Old House was to be repaired and upgraded, including alterations to the internal layout. These alterations were to provide a ground floor open space suitable for hosting all of the resident students in one meal sitting.

Our role

We provided structural engineering services. This included rapid assessments, through to the detailed engineering evaluation phase, and to detailed design of the structural upgrades and structural elements associated with the alterations.

The result

The project was completed in May 2015 and is once again fully occupied. It’s now able to accommodate all of the resident students in the new dining area.  It fully embraces its heritage features and feel, including using recycled flooring in the dining room. The grand staircase has been repositioned, and the entrance way has been recreated to provide a welcoming entrance with a real presence.

The refurbished Old House was officially opened by the Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, on 29 May 2015.

Key challenge and solution

A main priority was ensuring a safe, structurally sound building that also embraced its heritage. The structural upgrades were achieved without significant loss of the heritage aspects of the building.

Key features

During the upgrade, new steel portal frames were used where walls were removed. Specifically designed ply shear walls were added to provide a robust structure that met 85% of New Building Standards.

What the client said

“It was important to the school to repair, strengthen and preserve this heritage building not only for the hostel girls but also as one of the few older buildings still remaining in Christchurch. The Board of Trustees needed to ensure that Acland House was not only safe but that it provided an environment that has moved into the 21st century.  WSP Opus worked with the design team to ensure that we had all the structure and strength required to provide a safe and future proofed building while still allowing us to reconfigure spaces that gave the building greater functionality.” - Christchurch Girls’ High School Board of Trustees.

At a glance

Client: Christchurch Girls’ High School Board of Trustees
Location: Christchurch
Dates: 2014 – 2015
Services provided: Structural