24 May 2019

The National Business Review

An artist’s impression of The Pacifica once complete.

The Pacifica, one of Auckland’s largest developments, has broken through into the city skyline at 24 storeys so far – on time and on track – thanks to a building technique new to New Zealand.

Australian construction firm Icon, 70% backed by Japan’s Kajima Corporation, is on track to complete the ambitious project by October 2020. Pacifica is a $300 million, 57-level hotel and apartment tower being developed by Hengyi Pacific, a Melbourne-based developer with ties to Chinese developer Shandong HYI.

The Commerce St project has progressed far faster than the nearby Seascape residential development, which has been stalled by not meeting the building code’s fire regulations and hasn’t progressed much further than foundations.

More observant Aucklanders might have noticed the multi-storey building is being built differently from the standard high-rise, with a black cage drifting up the building as it grows.

Jumpform construction systems are far from a new high-rise construction technique in New Zealand but the scale of The Pacifica build means Icon can use a comprehensive system that hadn’t previously made the jump over the Tasman and is described as “leading edge technology worldwide.”

It encompasses the full tower footprint and all the vertical elements – core and columns – in a single vertical “factory.”

The Pacifica under construction.

Normally jumpform methods used in New Zealand are pulled up by cranes, and occasionally self-climbing hydraulic systems, typically only bringing the formwork of the core up, allowing for efficient repetitive concrete pouring of the building core only.

Cores typically include any elevator shafts, stairwells and utility spaces.

Icon’s technique uses a steel “superstructure” and synchronised electric screw jacks to pull the formwork for both the core and structural columns up, meaning concrete for the entire tower skeleton can be built on a five to six-day cycle, floor by floor.

It also reduces the reliance on the tower crane, meaning construction can still go ahead in strong winds and other adverse conditions.

Hanging screens attached under the jumpform minimise the risk of falling objects and falls from height whilst the structural slabs are being built below. The screens climb up the building with the jumpform, again reducing the dependency on cranes.

One of the electric screw jacks powering the jumpform system.

The method is more affordable for taller buildings as the set-up cost is the same for a 50- storey building as it would be for a 10-storey building.

A glass ribbon on the exterior, designed to reflect the surrounding city and waterfront is in the throes of being attached. The angled glass façade panels are manufactured and tested in China, then shipped to New Zealand.

Icon was the builder of Opal Tower, the Sydney residential tower evacuated on Christmas Eve after concrete panels cracked. The damage to the tower wasn’t structural and remedial works are under way, but owners have reported potential buyers are staying away and the apartment values have crashed.

It has assured Pacifica apartment buyers there are no structural or design similarities between Opal Tower and The Pacifica.

Sales

The Pacifica was the first apartment building in New Zealand to get an Overseas Investment Office transitional exemption certificate – meaning foreign investors can buy the apartments without OIO approval.

The glass ribbon and frame from inside the building.

CBRE national director of residential projects Gavin Lloyd said 80% of the 282 apartments in the tower have sold – only about 12% to 14% of sales were to foreign buyers despite the exemption, which Lloyd said is, “quite down on traditional CBD apartment buildings.”

Lloyd said The Pacifica was originally designed for owner-occupiers, too expensive for most landlords. “A lot of the foreign buyers are investors and naturally enough, they live overseas. They’re traditionally more attracted to investor-grade product.”

There are four different grades of apartments – 94 “commerce residences” from levels 7-24 and 138 “tower suites” from levels 18-41. There are also 48 more upmarket “sky homes” from levels 42-49 and 14 penthouses on levels 50 to 54.

There is also a boutique hotel element to the building – offering 35 rooms with a separate entrance.

Amenities for the apartments include a pool, spa, gym, library, cinema and community terrace, among others. Car parking with a 24/7 valet service and car elevator will also be available to tenants.

Andrew Bevin (/author/andrew-bevin)

Wed, 22 May 2019