Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club Hero

Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club

Few companies are given the chance to build something right on the foreshore of a New Zealand beach. Rounding the corner at Shag Rock, it's the crescent roof peaks of the Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club that first catch the eye. Beautiful and stoic against the backdrop of the beach, the Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club is "the gateway to Sumner".


The Sumner Surf Lifesaving Club had to be demolished following the Canterbury earthquakes. The club’s prime beach front location had to be carefully considered, taking into account the harsh weather the building needs to withstand. The club and community also wanted "a great piece of architecture", not just another changing shed. The building aims to blend in with the environment, rather than dominate it.

What we did:

The beach changes over time and the structure needs to withstand a pretty heavy load. The structure consists of three sheds, club change rooms, an office and a pavilion area with public toilets. The main structure is steel portal frames with rolled roof beams which form the roof curve, which are connected with Hyspan purlins (exposed) in the gear sheds. The roof is formed with plywood which is covered with a two layer torch-on roofing membrane. The walls are formed with precast concrete panels and cedar clad timber framing.

The street-side walls are concrete and the cladding is cedar, left to weather and age over time. Inside, it's pared back – timber plank floors and neutral colours. Next door, the public toilets have been designed to mirror the club building and give the beachside structures better flow.  The wave-like roofs  are repeated inside and the function room in particular has a vaulted airy feel. Tall sliding doors give way to big decks that step down to grass and beach access.
The structure is topped by a watch tower, also with a curving roof, that gives a 180 degree view of the beach and sea. It also features a refurbished clock on a plinth. The Club has long been a Sumner landmark and dates to an older surf club building that was once on what's now Sumner's Esplanade.


Unique Challenges:

Of course, a build such as this one comes with its own challenges. Less than 40 years ago, the ocean was lapping at the edges of the surf club's previous building. All fixings to the outside envelope had to be marine grade 316 stainless steel, including all the gutters and downpipes. The foundations are made of high-tech sandbags and packed gravel. These will minimise future quake damage while addressing sea-level rise.

Due to the shape of the building there were numerous challenges around weather tightness. In particular, around the roofing junction details and flashings. To help identify and resolve the issues the project team created a mock-up of the roof early in the project which had the same curves and forms of the main roof. In addition, there was close collaboration with Christchurch City Council to achieve acceptable solutions for NZBC E2 around roof junction details and general weather tightness.

Environmental consideration was very important to this project due to its location. All chemicals used on site had to be controlled and stored correctly. There was careful consideration about erosion. The construction site area was reduced to retain the existing vegetation on both the dunes and around the site. Sand that was excavated for the gravel raft was reused to fill the Elcorock Retaining system. This was installed on the beach side of the project to protect against the rise in sea levels, which is causing erosion in the area.


The Outcome:

Nestled in low dunes on Sumner beach, the new $2.8 million building features three curved roofs over about 300sqm. Most of the building is dedicated to the Sumner Surf Life Saving Club's mission of beach patrols and lifeguarding. The club is part of the landscape, from the sloping waves of the roof to the huge 300 square metre deck breaching the gap between building and beach. Not only is it an essential build for the surf club, it's a key feature of the township. This project is of great importance to the Sumner community as it was the first post-earthquake community project. It has had wide local and national media coverage since its completion.