University of Auckland Office of Vice Chancellor seismic upgrade and refurbishment Hero

University of Auckland Office of Vice Chancellor seismic upgrade and refurbishment

University of Auckland Office of Vice Chancellor seismic upgrade and refurbishment

Formerly known as the Old Arts building, the ClockTower was designed by R.A. Lippincott, a Chicago-trained architect and brother-in-law of Walter Burley Griffin, designer of Canberra.

The 54-metre tower, faced with Mt Somers stone, was inspired by the famous Tom Tower of Christ Church, Oxford; and has come to symbolise the University. The octagonal interior is vaulted and galleried with a mosaic floor and piers.

In June 2014 the University of Auckland engaged Hawkins to convert two floors of the South Wing of the ClockTower building into one interconnected space to accommodate the Office of the Vice Chancellor. 


University of Auckland’s aims:

  • To convert two floors in the South Wing of the Clock Tower Building into one interconnected space to accommodate the Office of the Vice Chancellor
  • To ensure fit out elements can be easily removed in the future without compromising the original heritage fabric
  • To achieve maximum acoustic privacy between the individual offices
  • To provide a comfortable working environment using natural and mechanical ventilation
  • To improve the seismic rating in critical areas.

What we did:

  • Completed the fit-out for the Office of the Vice Chancellor within two levels of the South Wing of the Clock Tower – this included open-plan work stations, offices and meeting rooms, beverage bays, copy stations and office fitout to the level 2 North East transept
  • Undertook seismic upgrading of the building strengthening to the level 2 concrete slab, level 1 columns and roof ply diaphragm. These items were ‘high risk’ with the potential to reduce the building’s performance
  • Installed a new staircase connecting the two levels
  • Built a secure reception and waiting area on levels 1 and 2

Unique challenges: 

  • It was vital that we protect heritage items from damage due to construction vibration and impact. The architect walked us through the job and identified items of heritage. We then put together a heritage fabric protection policy (methodology) showing how we would protect each fabric on site and formulated subcontractor inductions to let them know of these items and the procedures they needed to follow. This worked well – we safely and carefully dismantled, removed, restored and re-installed numerous heritage items.
  • Because we were working in an occupied teaching and staff office environment, we had to keep disruption to a minimum – construction noise constraints were a challenge because building work was taking place directly above a lecture theatre and the disability services department. This required good planning and ongoing communication with the client and key stakeholders and involved us planning our work around their activities. For example lectures were held on Monday and Tuesday from 12.00 – 2.00pm and Wednesdays 12.00-4.00pm, with exams running from 17 October to 17 November so we ensured no noisy activities occurred during this period. Fortnightly meetings with key stakeholders allowed us to outline upcoming tasks that would generate noise and to fit these in around planned events. 
  • Ensuring the safety of campus staff, students and the general public during construction was something we had to carefully plan for. We successfully communicated and managed major adjustments to existing thoroughfares, and developed a clear methodology for high risk items such as demolishing the link bridge. Fire safety was another important consideration during the structural strengthening and refurbishment works requiring on-site hot works.  We adopted strict hot work systems, including a hot work permit system, and set up temporary wireless heat detectors around the site. 

Hawkins “provided a consistently exceptional level of communication and liaison to our service…to ensure that the impact of work was minimised for our students. We felt we could raise any issues with a high degree of confidence that they would be addressed promptly.”

Brian Stanney

Manager Student Disability Services, Te Ara Tautika – The Equity Office, The University of Auckland