The third CCANZ ArchEng Workshop was recently held in Christchurch, with 22 architecture and structural engineering students from across New Zealand in attendance. The students were hosted by the Canterbury Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) with the support of principle sponsor BRANZ.

The 3-day workshop saw the students, paired into cross-disciplinary teams of two, work towards a demanding project brief given to them on the first day.

This year’s challenge was focused on the theme of resilience, with each team having to design a structure that could be rapidly re-purposed after a significantly disruptive event to provide a service to the community. The project brief was intentionally open-ended, and a critical part of each team’s strategy was to focus their design on a well-defined sub-set of all the possible aspects of the scenario (e.g. flood or fire etc.).

This year’s event was enhanced by a keynote presentation from the University of Canterbury’s Chris Hawker, the Director of the University’s Centre for Risk, Resilience & Renewal (UCR3).

Chris was able to give a first-hand perspective on communities’ immediate post-event needs in his capacity as the Primary Incident Controller, responsible for managing the University’s response team for multiple events over the past four years.

These incidents have included five major earthquakes and in excess of 11,000 aftershocks, severe weather events and security threats.

The students were also able to learn from Chris Wilson (of Wilson & Hill Architects) and Grant Coombes (of Engenium) who conducted a guided tour of the recently completed Solid Energy building, which has received a 5 Green Star certified rating for office interiors from the New Zealand Green Building Council.

Since its inception in 2012, the ArchEng workshop has endeavoured to convey the message that the best outcome for the client will only occur when the architect and engineer are committed to working together in a collaborative way.

As the students were shown around the Solid Energy building, Chris and Grant highlighted many aspects of the build that required careful dialogue and management between the two disciplines, reiterating to the students that their professional careers will, in many instances, rely heavily on this form of interaction.

For the students involved the workshop is a very intense experience, particularly as it is from a standing start and with a team-mate they have just met.

While one team walks away with the $5,000 first prize, the students as a whole comment every year how much they have learnt from their partner and how they will take the experience, and new friendships, with them into their careers.

The winners of the 2014 event, Vivienne (University of Auckland engineering student) and Kim (Unitec architecture student), designed a multi-purpose medical facility that could be easily re-commissioned post-disaster by virtue of its structural resilience, which is ingeniously achieved through the building’s floating (but tethered) position in a large pool of water.

CCANZ CEO Rob Gaimster highlights the importance of the initiative. “The 3-day ArchEng workshop is a large part of the CCANZ drive to engage with early career professionals, and assist in promoting concrete as a premium construction material to the next generation of designers and construction experts,” says Rob.

Rob is also quick to point out the how crucial NZRMCA support of CCANZ is in making such initiatives a reality. “Over the past couple of years CCANZ has been able to implement a co-ordinated project plan across the tertiary education space, assisted in no small part by the NZRMCA and its appreciation of efforts to communicate the benefits of concrete to tomorrow’s specifiers.”

To help capture the animated atmosphere of the three day event, CCANZ once again commissioned a videographer. The resulting short film showcases the talent and energy of the students, as well as more fully exploring the rationale behind their designs.

CCANZ encourages readers to watch the YouTube videos on the CCANZ channel ( and be inspired by the creativity that the next generation of construction professionals is bringing to the workplace.

Taken from the December 2014 NZRMCA Newsletter
Images - CCANZ