Adapting to Climate Change

Adapting to Climate Change

Species often evolve most quickly when under stress: a change in the environment forces adaptive improvements and only the fittest survive. Much the same could be said for the built environment. Design imperatives ushered in by the threat of global climate change have driven rapid advances in quality, so in many parts of the world buildings are now more airtight, better insulated, better cooled, less wasteful of materials and generally more efficient than ever before.

The trouble with change

For the architects, engineers and developers who shape the future of the built environment, this is awkward. We know that our designs must be resilient to change, but since we cannot know the extent and timing of this change, there is a risk that our solutions may be under-designed, over-designed or just plain wrong.

“It’s true we are dealing with a great deal of uncertainty,” acknowledges David Symons, global leader of WSP’s Future Ready innovation programme. “But if we take the view that it’s all too difficult and we don’t do anything, we will end up with suboptimal design. There is no doubt that climate change will be a huge issue for designers, for cities, for entire populations, so burying our heads in the sand will result in the worst of all worlds.”

Responding to this uncertainty is as important as planning for the future. Many projects, particularly infrastructure, have long design lives of over 100 years, says Symons: “Even with the best information, there is massive uncertainty over sea level and storm activity over that period.” On a recent project to upgrade a coastal railway embankment near Poole in the UK, WSP advised that the design life be reduced from 110 to 35 years. “It’s much less expensive in capital cost, and the intervening time can be used to assess what’s best to do next.”

On other projects, a shorter design life is not the answer. Sometimes the chosen solution is to build in flexibility for the future, as on the proposed Crossrail 2 underground line for London. “We expect London to be hotter,” says Symons, “but we can’t know how much or quite how that will impact the underground. So we don’t build in huge air-conditioning systems now. Rather, we leave space for vents and plant that can be fitted later as necessary.”

Learning from disaster

Regulatory change may be necessary, then, if designers are to make the fullest contribution to a resilient future. This is echoed by social scientist Vivienne Ivory, technical principal with WSP Opus in New Zealand and a researcher at the University of Otago specialising in public health and urban environments. Ivory led a study of how the city of Christchurch is recovering from its two recent earthquakes, which revealed much about how society responds to disaster. “Though this was not a climate-related event, the destruction of homes and infrastructure is very much the kind of thing we are likely to see more of as extreme weather events such as cyclones and flooding become more frequent,” she points out.

The study found that different parts of the city are recovering at different rates. For example, those areas where it was possible to walk or cycle to shops or work are valued over those relying on cars. “One of the things that made a big difference was space,“ says Ivory. “Parks and squares became places where people came together and engaged with recovery. Space enabled the creation of pop-up functions — to replace amenities that had been lost — and this worked on every scale. We even saw a spare bit of sidewalk where old chiller cabinets had been turned into a free book exchange, a temporary library. So space which had initially provided refuge when disaster struck then provided leverage to help the city recover socially.”

Although the worst impacts are yet to come, the probability curves have already shifted. The one-in-100-year storm is now one-in-20.


Michael Mondshine, WSP

Her conclusion was that city-wide resilience requires both local connectedness “and maybe some compromises on the rules about how public space is used”.

As businesses and governments develop their own responses to climate change, the notion of competitive advantage is likely to figure more prominently. “Investors don’t like risk,” says Symons, “they do like resilience. So it makes sense for an environmental regulation body, say, to talk about a country gaining economic advantage from being water resilient.”

Politicians and administrators are beginning to understand and respond to this approach. For example, WSP is advising an Irish county that intends to use its preparedness against climate risks as a differentiator to draw inward investment. Symons believes that money will be attracted to resilience at every level:

“If you are investing in a property, you don’t want it to flood or to become unlettable because it is overheating. You want it to be safe and successful. It’s important to realise that climate change is not just an issue for governments. There is a lot that corporations could and should be doing to make themselves resilient.”

“It is easy for climate risk to sound rather apocalyptic,” says Symons. “But with change comes opportunity. And those who understand the change and respond positively will be the ones to reap the rewards.”

This is an edited version of an article originally published by The Possible.
To read the full version please click here.

The Road to Nature

Rugged, remote and astonishingly beautiful, Te Urewera is the largest wilderness region in the North Island, a primeval forest prized for its ecological systems, biodiversity and cultural heritage.

The kaitiaki (guardians) of Te Urewera are Tūhoe, said to be descended from Te Mauna (the Mountain) and Hine-pūkohu-rani (the Mist Maiden). Tūhoe – the Children of the Mist – are renowned for their fierce protection of the land that holds such a special place in their hearts.

This love for the land has resulted in Tūhoe doing things differently, rekindling traditional knowledge alongside modern research and insights.

In 2016 the Tūhoe Trust commissioned WSP Opus Research to investigate potential options for the resurfacing and maintenance of the section of State Highway 38, which is largely unsealed as it runs through Te Urewera.

The road is essential for maintaining connectivity and services to an isolated rural community and for the development of the tourism industry in Te Urewera. Eschewing traditional construction methods, the Tūhoe Trust challenged WSP Opus to innovate an environmentally-friendly and sustainable approach in keeping with the values of their people.

“We wish to take responsibility for all things we are consciously putting into and taking out of the whenua. Bitumen is not of Te Urewera in much the same way as cyanide or choleciferol poisons typically used in pest control are not of Te Urewera. In our guardianship role, we need to take steps to ensure that we are giving Te Urewera the best chance at balancing her needs for life within Te Urewera.” says Tamati Kruger, chairman of Te Urewera Board.

Jeremy Wu, Research Manager Transport, says a solution is needed to exemplify the principles of sustainable co-existence between people and the land. Importantly it couldn’t detract from the unique, pristine, character of much of the region, which are the home lands of the Tūhoe people, something that’s seen as a major drawcard for visitors.

The world-first solution is at the cutting-edge of innovative sustainability and has proved to be successful in field trials.
It uses a tree resin, a natural by-product of the wood pulping process used in pulp and paper manufacturing, which is used in a novel way to bind the gravel and keep it in place.

The result is a solution that suppresses dust – an issue on gravel roads as it obscures visibility – with waterproofing attributes that reduces the occurrence of potholes and corrugations.

Under the bonnet of a field trial

The WSP Opus project team and Tūhoe selected two trial sites in Te Urewera, each offering different conditions to test the coating over a 12 month period.

The Mangapae section is 250m long between the Mangapae Stream Bridge and Papueru. Around 200 vehicles per day use this stretch, which was chosen as the flat grade allows for higher speeds, ideal for testing dust suppression.

The second site at Rosie Bay, Lake Waikaremoana has steep grades with tight curves, used by around 150 vehicles a day. Although vehicles are travelling at a lower speed, there is increased stress on the surface, a key factor in the development of potholes and corrugations.

“We were keen to involve our Tribal Communities in the planning and leadership challenges of their roading infrastructure, something traditionally left to territorial authorities to manage and for community members to complain about. This trial changes that dynamic, something that the District Councils are backing also” says Kirsti Luke, Chief Executive, Tūhoe Trust.

Test pits were dug on each site to identify and characterise the existing pavement structure and for material samples for the stabilisation design.
Materials testing and stabilisation design was carried out by WSP Opus and Hiway Stabilizers at WSP Opus’ Auckland laboratory. Tests included classification of the pavement structure, dry and wet compaction and resistance to loads.

Both trial sites were constructed in January 2018 by Hiway Stabilizers and, on completion the sites underwent a monthly visual assessment.

The road is essential for maintaining connectivity and services to an isolated rural community

A chance to reflect

Jeremy says that the field trials have been a great success in demonstrating the performance of this alternative road surfacing solution. Twelve months since the initial construction, the trial sites are still reasonably well-bound and dust-free with very few signs of damage. This is extremely encouraging given that the untreated sections adjacent to the trial sites have had at least four maintenance treatments in the past year.

Tamati Kruger, Tūhoe Trust Chairman, says that Tūhoe wish to further test the application of ‘Nature’s Road’ in Te Urewera.

“The community response and interest has been strong. The road is a unifying feature, where everyone has the opportunity to benefit. Extending the conversation beyond potholes has taken us to deeper talks on climate change, District Council and local community delivery responsibilities. It has opened up monitoring opportunities for the local schools, all helping to elevate local level consideration of future needs, something that small rural communities are vulnerable to.”

Natures Own Filtration System

An innovative project carried out by WSP Opus for Owl Farm has created a greater understanding of how wetlands can be used as a tool for the management of farm nutrient runoff.

Sharing expertise

Owl Farm on the site of St Peter’s School in Cambridge, is a joint venture demonstration dairy farm between St Peter’s School and Lincoln University. As a result of extensive research carried out here, Waikato farmers have access to world class resources, information and on-farm practices.

Stephen McNally, Head of Primary Industries, says WSP Opus has had a long and positive association with the school, sharing broad expertise in planning, ecological science and farm infrastructure engineering.

“It’s been our immense pleasure to share this knowledge with programme participants and see the positive and significant benefits this work has, particularly as it contributes to future food security for our communities.”

Harnessing nature

Environmental pollutants generated from agricultural fertilisers and livestock are carried in the water leaving farms and make their way into waterways, impacting water quality. It’s an issue that industry is working hard to address.

WSP Opus designed and established a wetland on Owl Farm to investigate the use of wetlands in a farming context as a way of removing nitrogen from the water.

The project involved the assessment of the extent of surface flows and ground water seepage, selection of a suitable site, hydraulic design, planting plans and construction supervision – including dealing with geotechnical solutions.

McNally says the project has offered up insights on the design of wetlands.

“We’re aware of overly simplistic wetland designs that don’t fully consider the biological and hydraulic processes to be truly effective. While biodiversity is an outcome, a good wetland needs to be much more than an aesthetic feature or duck pond.”

He says that effective and sustainable land and nutrient management is fundamental to rural business success and long term operational viability.

While well designed and established wetlands that consider hydraulic, bioremediation and phytoremediation processes become largely self-sustaining, they do still need monitoring like any other business asset. Analysis of early data is extremely positive, suggesting that 60-90% of nitrate has been removed from water before entering the Waikato River. McNally says the project is now an integral part of the Owl Farm environment and its teaching function.

“For WSP Opus it’s been a great pleasure to see the opportunity the wetland has presented as an example for other farmers and as a learning experience for students in the sciences and agriculture programmes.”

Effective and sustainable land and nutrient management is fundamental to rural business success and long term operational viability.

Restoring kūkūwa

Over 150 years ago, when European settlement of New Zealand began, we had around 670,000 hectares of freshwater kūkūwa wetlands. Today more than 90% of these no longer exist.

Wetlands are of great cultural and spiritual significance to Māori. They provided Māori with food – wildfowl, tuna (eels) and other freshwater fish. They were also places to grow taro and harvest harakeke (flax) and other materials for medicinal, food, building and crafts.

During the pioneering era, wetlands were considered wastelands that needed to be drained in order to become ‘productive’ and this trend continued as land was reclaimed for agriculture. In recent years however there has been a considerable change in this approach, particularly as the vast benefits of wetlands have been better understood.

Peter Matthewson, Global Director – Water, says most New Zealanders want to do the right thing when it comes to improving water quality and is pleased to see change happening.

“With the greater intensification of farming we have a lot of nitrates running off land and into rivers which has changed the natural biology of waterways and the nitrification of lakes. A lot of farmers are taking really positive steps in terms of retiring land close to waterways and planting natives, and work in the area of these wetlands is adding to that knowledge.”

McNally says there has been a massive commitment of time, energy and cost from rural families and enterprises in managing their catchment.

“Some of the decisions in the past were probably based on the demands for a new nation finding its role. With a better-informed decision process and understanding of the sensitivity in balance it’s fallen to the current generation of land owners to redress past decisions.”

McNally says WSP Opus’ approach is to help clients seek solutions that have a much greater weighting on intergenerational outcomes armed with the latest technology, data and analysis to achieve security of safe affordable nutritional food while minimising the impact on the environment.

Arotahi Article Banner with Auckland Harbour Bridge Illustration

The Auckland Harbour Bridge

WSP Opus’ DNA is embedded in the foundations of the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Since opening in 1959, it has required continual maintenance and refurbishment and we’ve played an ongoing role in providing engineering expertise.

This has reduced environmental impact, prolonged the life of the infrastructure and provides better driving experience for users.

Here we take a look at some of the key moments in this crucial piece of infrastructure that transformed the Waitematā harbour.

Auckland Harbour Bridge – Lighting Pole Upgrade & Installation


Green light given to the Auckland Harbour Bridge

1946 – 1950
The Ministry of Works (later to become WSP Opus) starts site investigations and borings of the seabed

Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic


Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority set up to raise funds and organise construction

Construction begins

Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic showing opening date


1967 – 1969
The ‘Nippon clip-ons’ – two lanes on each side, pre-fabricated in Japan – added

High pressure sodium lamps installed

Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic


Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic showing traffic flow
Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic


Tolling ends

Inspections reveal cracking of the box girder clip-ons. A two year programme of work ensued with bans on heavy vehicles and a review of the concrete asphalt used on the bridge

Auckland harbour bridge infographic


WSP Opus implements world-first alternative for road surfacing on a steel orthotropic structure

WSP Opus partners with Fulton Hogan and TBS Farnsworth to create the Total Bridge Services Joint Venture

Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic showing traffic flow


The Auckland Motorway Alliance (AMA) began a 10-year contract to operate and maintain the Auckland motorway network

Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic
Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic showing traffic flow


WSP Opus joins Auckland Harbour Bridge Alliance

WSP Opus trials world-first quick-set repair material for surface defects

New rust and corrosion protection installed

New protective coating plan implemented


WSP Opus installs new epoxy asphalt road surfacing membrane

WSP Opus undertakes design of new light poles and installation of new LEDs

Auckland Harbour Bridge infographic

Auckland skyline at sunset

New Zealand’s Shifting Cityscapes: Auckland CBD

A city’s skyline is its signature. High rise buildings not only change the skyline today, but also form part of the legacy that we leave to future generations.

Auckland’s skyline is currently undergoing a transformational change, with a number of high rise projects underway that will reshape and redefine Tāmaki Makaurau.

Engineering these buildings is half art, half science. As the saying goes, “Art without Engineering is dreaming; Engineering without Art is calculating”. We at WSP Opus strive to think beyond the black box engineering so prevalent in today’s industry.

The sheer scale of high-rise structures and the quantity of materials and energy that go into them means they will be around for much, much longer, with their lifespan measured not in decades but in generations.

Over the next four to five years Auckland will gain several large-scale hospitality and residential high-rises, the likes of which have not been seen in New Zealand before.

Peter O’Leary, National Head of Structures, is excited about the change that is taking place in the city and that WSP Opus is involved in many of the projects.

The Auckland Unitary Plan guides how Auckland will grow, sets a direction for urban development and quality of growth with a view to increasing the density of development in urban locations and major transport routes.

“It’s fantastic to see this level of investment go into developing Auckland’s infrastructure, particularly these projects that will transform the skyline. There is a challenge for all stakeholders to ensure that developments are complementary to the vision for Auckland, a green city with excellent public spaces.”

Peter goes on to say that these buildings are now possible with the Auckland Unitary Plan and the types of high rise will extend into suburbs – already tall buildings are being proposed for Auckland’s suburbs including Albany, Manukau and New Lynn.

Auckand skyscrapers

Left to right: Artists’ impressions of the Pacifica (approx. 178m), Seascape (approx. 187m), 65 Federal Street (approx. 180m), Grace Apartments (approx. 33m).

What does future-ready mean?

Our environments are ever-evolving. What we know from global research, is that today’s design codes and solutions don’t necessarily account for the future we’re anticipating. Future-ready is about acknowledging designs that see the future more clearly by assessing, researching and forecasting future trends relevant to climate change, changes in societal living and digital and technological advances.

To date, the top-twenty buildings in Auckland averaged a total height of 23 storeys. Auckland’s anticipated new-builds will push the bar even higher with up to 10 buildings going over 35 storeys.

Current projects underway in Auckland have a forecast construction value of $41b by 2023. Here we assess the key developments.

The Pacifica will sit at 57-levels and cater to the demand for luxury living in the city centre. The complex will be split to encompass commercial suites, sky homes and penthouses. Key features include a community and entertainment level, exercise and relaxation facilities.

Seascape, another luxury high-rise, will sit 8m taller than the Pacifica. Set to finish in 2022 – the building will include four apartment types, 15 penthouse types, and an entertainment level.

65 Federal Street was announced last year and is estimated for completion in 2022. Although Federal Street is 7m shorter than Seascape – it’s placement in the city (on the ridge that joins Victoria Street) will allow it to appear taller. Federal Street will host a range of residential and commercial spaces, including a five star hotel, 226 apartments, a ground-floor marketplace, private wellness centre and rooftop gardens.

Grace Victoria Quarter Apartments will dominate from the Northern Motorway (SH1) as you approach the city centre. What it lacks in height, it makes up for in views; the complex offers 360-degree views of the harbour and city. Accompanying Auckland’s residential boom is the predicted $1b of commercial growth the region will experience by 2023. PwC’s new base, Commercial Bay takes reign in terms of stature. Taking centre-stage on the waterfront, the mammoth $680m development will reshape Auckland signature cityscape; setting Auckland’s urban scene from across the harbour.

And then there’s the commercial and civil projects that will bring positive disruption to the way we move, live and work:

Connecting nature and community

A project to increase safety at a notorious Hawke’s Bay intersection has incorporated Māori design principles, providing a community and visitor connection to rare native wildlife and a rich history.

The SH2 Watchman’s Road intersection in Napier was once one of the country’s highest risk intersections, but this has changed with a transformational project jointly funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency, Hawke’s Bay Airport and Napier City Council.

The project involved the construction of a roundabout at the intersection, the widening and strengthening of Watchman Road and the construction of a new road from Hawke’s Bay Airport to link to Watchman Road.

Crucial to success was ensuring minimal impact to the surrounding Ahuriri Estuary and Westshore Wildlife Reserve, a wetland of national and ecological significance.
Over 70 species of bird have been sighted in the area, including threatened species like the kuaka (godwit), royal spoonbill, Australasian bittern, New Zealand dabchick, banded dotterel and black-billed gull. It’s also an important habitat for tuna (eels), ika (fish) and some shellfish.

The project integrates Māori history, culture, values, and mahi toi (art) within the design and construction – including the stormwater solutions – with Iwi input from Mana Ahuriri Trust and Ngāti Kahungunu.

It was a great opportunity to work on such a visible but previously unrecognised entrance to the city in a location with so much significance to local Māori, and the community as a whole. To be able to weave together a design response to Māori, the wider community and to the natural environment and to hear such positive feedback from so many people has been very rewarding.

Stefan Steyn, Landscape Architect

A collaborative effort between lead WSP Opus designers Stefan Steyn and Nick Aiken, working with renowned local Māori artist Jacob Scott (Ngāti Kahungunu), introduced innovative Koru patterns in the gabion baskets and appreciation for kuaka has been embedded within the project. From the air, the shape of a kuaka becomes visible; the roundabout is the eye of the bird and the traffic island to the north-east forms the beak, wings extend across the adjacent smaller stormwater treatment ponds and boardwalks.

Stunning artwork was added in the form of 150 godwits clustered on poles in six locations, five large Pou structures referencing local ancestors and mythology and 100 small iron sculptures representing the marae of Ngāti Kahungunu.

Nick Aiken says the project provided an opportunity to honour the ecology, history and aspirations of the people of Te-Matau-a Māui, the region known today as Hawke’s Bay.
Nick and Stefan wanted the pou artwork to represent the people of the place, referencing the five historic pā sites once located there. The existing lagoon is a tiny fraction of what was there pre-earthquake when the lagoon had five islands in it and yacht races used to happen.

New stormwater solutions, including constructed wetlands and swales, receive stormwater runoff from the adjacent impervious roads and aid in removing contaminants and pollutants prior to discharging into the Ahuriri lagoon.

The location presented the team with a number of challenges – in particular the highly saline water content of the two disconnected wetlands and seasonably variable water levels. Planted swales have been used to intercept stormwater from the new causeway however plants had to be carefully selected for their ability to thrive in a harsh saline environment.

Hawke's Bay community at sunset

Tiakina tō tātou taonga, Tiakina tō tātou wai

Troy Brockbank

Troy Brockbank, Kaitohutohu Matua Taiao / Senior Environmental Consultant looks at an alternative approach to the management of water

Ko te wai te ora o ngā mea katoa – Water is the life of all things

Wai (Water) is the essence of all life and the world’s most precious resource. It’s of high importance to Māori, as it is the life giver of all things, a precious taonga (treasure), part of our whakapapa (genealogy), part of our identity.

Water is under increasing pressure due to the strain we’ve put on the world, including rapid urbanisation, kai (food) production challenges, aging infrastructure and climate change. It is essential that our water resources are well managed to deal with this strain.

For ease of management, water is often split, reclassified and categorised into multiple forms; such as three-waters; drinking water, stormwater, wastewater – forms of water associated with service and delivery infrastructure; and freshwater and marine water – forms of water associated with the natural environment. This allows issues regarding water infrastructure to be managed effectively in their segregated forms. However, this approach seldom considers the health of the whole water system, and the mechanics of the water cycle, and instead manages these waters in isolation of each other.

Through urbanisation, we have managed to disrupt the flow of water, in particular ngā roimata o ngā Atua (rainfall), the tears of Ranginui (sky father) for Papatūānuku (earth mother). Altering our urban environments by laying concrete pavement, asphalting roads and constructing roofs means we have made the land impervious to water and prone to the accumulation of pollutants from contaminant generating activities. We have purposefully piped and culverted our waterways – the arteries of Papatūānuku, and disrupted the journey not only mai te rangi ki te whenua (from the sky to the land), but mai uta, ki tai (from the ridgeline, to the sea).

As a result, many of our local water resources have depleted over time and this has impacted a range of traditional practices. This is especially true for the harvesting of resources, wild foods and plants, where stocks have been depleted or lost, or where discharges of wastewater and stormwater make wild food consumption and recreation unsafe, and subject to tapu (cultural prohibition). We have managed to turn our back on our waters and lost our connections not only to wai (water), but consequently also to the whenua (land).

We recognise that our actions and inactions have had consequences for our environment – we tell Papatūānuku that she is sick, but we need to tell her that we love her. We need to show her that we care. For Māori, the health of the waterway is connected to the health of the people. We are one and the same. If the water is unhealthy, we are unhealthy.

Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au – I am the river, the river is me.

Our current approach is to manage water in isolation and as a service to be provided is wrong and it is not working. What if we choose to change this approach? What if it is not the environment or water that needs to be managed but our behaviours and our relationship to water. It is us, the people that need managing.

We need to respect water, to allow nature to create the environment where waterways and their associated ecosystems can be strong and healthy. This doesn’t have to mean compromising on development to meet the needs of our growing communities, but it does mean developing in a way that recognises the need to ensure our interaction with Papatūānuku comes from a place of mutual respect not dominance; ensuring there is harmonic balance.

The good news is that this is happening. One example is Auckland Council’s Water Strategy which has proposed a shift in the water management paradigm to remove people from the centre and reinstate water as the central focus. The strategy’s purpose is to enable Te mauri o te wai (the life supporting capacity of water) and prioritise ecosystems that are healthy, protected and enhanced – leading to the restored hauora (health) of our waterways, ensuring the mauri (life force) is enhanced and not further degraded.

This shift involves a different way of thinking, one founded in a holistic, culturally-enhanced water sensitive design approach. By incorporating indigenous understanding alongside modern knowledge we can create a successful, long-term solution to enhancing the life supporting capacity of water as it returns to Papatūānuku.

Integrating core water sensitive design values with mātauranga Māori (indigenous knowledge) and principles of tikanga Māori (traditional indigenous practices) provides a holistic, culturally enhanced approach to protecting our water for future generations.

Our water issues are urgent and the challenge is to act now before it is too late; to repair the mistakes and damages of yesterday, so future generations do not have to atone for our misinformed actions. There is an opportunity for us in our personal and professional capacities to adjust our thinking in a way that will allow us to prepare a future ready tomorrow.

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua – Land is permanent while people come and go

Arotahi Article Banner with illustration

Uncovering the essence of place

Across the country a series of placemaking projects are breathing new life into our regions, revitalising town centres in a curated way that speaks to the unique identity of the space.

The reasons for the revitalisation projects are as unique as the character of the place. Some towns need to adjust to an industry change, adapting to uncover and embrace new economic opportunities as traditional sectors disappear. Others are undergoing rapid growth and face the pressure of accommodating population increases that place pressure on existing resources.

What they have in common is the need to define the essence of the place, a vital component of regeneration projects.

Landscape architect and urban designer Jack Earl has worked on a number of these projects and says that putting people at the centre of the approach is key to creating unique spaces that encourage the community to feel connected and engaged.

“Having a sense of place and an understanding of it is vital, if people are connected to a place they’ll activate it and stay,” he says.

Colleague and landscape architect Terry Palethorpe agrees, adding that the inclusion of Māori narrative in regeneration projects brings a vital component to their authenticity.

“Every place has a story, it’s just a matter of finding out what it is. There was a period where the Māori narrative of a place wasn’t considered but, thankfully that’s changing, and now you can see mana whenua stories woven through the fabric of a place.”

In the case of consulting on the Brightwater Town Centre upgrade for the Tasman District Council, Jack says they went into the classroom to learn what was important to the future generation of residents.

Following a period of discovery work that included background studies with WSP Opus’ transport planning team and archaeologists, Peter Kortegast ran a three hour workshop with a group of Year 5 and 6 students at Brightwater Primary School to capture their ideas.

Brightwater Primary has a roll of around 300 students, representing a significant percentage of the town population that is just over 2,000. Tasman District Council estimates that the town population is set to grow by 16% in the next 10 years

“It was a great way to get things going and enthused an age group that will have a long-term connection to the community,” says Jack.

To get the student voice coming through and getting some ideas from the kids as to what can happen with Brightwater is really cool, it gives the kids a purpose. To think that maybe, hopefully some of their ideas might actually get put in place would even be a bonus.

Interestingly, where workshop facilitators assumed the children would be focused solely on fun activities, what they actually ended up with was a need for better safety around transport.

“Some of the ideas were absolutely brilliant – the drive-through sweet shop and tree hut in the local park are among my favourites. But at the same time, we gained valuable insights into their experience in getting to school, they were asking for better quality pavements, more weather resistant bus shelters, safer crossings across the streets and the need to slow traffic down.”

Jack says the students also considered the needs of others in their community, including the access for disabled mobility and the elderly. Safe access to bike facilities was also a key theme which, given that the region has spectacular cycle trails and mountain bike facilities, means this is a significant part of the local identity.

Brightwater School Deputy Principal Glenda Earle said students were able to look at things from a different perspective without any preconceptions.

“To get the student voice coming through and getting some ideas from the kids as to what can happen with Brightwater is really cool, it gives the kids a purpose. To think that maybe, hopefully some of their ideas might actually get put in place would even be a bonus.”

The workshop provided valuable insights and is part of a number of considerations that influences projects that capture local identity. These include landscape and landmarks, the colours of the natural environment, built heritage, industrial and working character, local community and events, and the history of Māori and European settlement.

In the case of Brightwater, this has resulted in an interpretation of an urban legend.

“In the late 1800s there were five street lights in the main street which were wired through a chicken perch. Legend has it that the rooster would turn the switch on at night time and flick the lights off in the morning.”

So popular is this story that a motif of a rooster is being incorporated into the streetscape and a concept has been worked up for perching seats along the road; if someone sits on the seat, lights will come on.

Incorporating these elements and empowering the community to lead projects fosters a strong sense of ownership that celebrates local culture.

It also encourages new characters to emerge. Following a renewal project in Greymouth CBD which WSP Opus worked on, the local Indian community began cooking and selling curries in the town square.

Other WSP Opus regional revitalisation projects include Rotorua’s Inner City Revitalisation Strategy

“By providing an inviting, open space you create opportunities for the community to connect in new ways. In this case it’s provided a usable public space for groups to demonstrate their democratic voices – as an urban designer that’s the sort of outcome that makes everything worthwhile,” says Jack.

Terry says it’s exciting to work on projects that bring out the uniqueness of places – especially if it’s an area where the history hasn’t been fully explored.

“It’s rewarding to bring out that history and that individuality and people respond when we get it right, especially when they didn’t realise something was there or some aspect of a place had a past.”

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Can we juice it? Yes we can?

Preparing energy networks to cope with charging the increasing number of electric vehicles (EVs) on our roads is a major challenge. It’s crucial to make the right decisions to meet the growing demand of today’s users and be ready for what’s coming.

WSP Opus power experts are at the forefront of ensuring our infrastructure is ready for large-scale adoption of EVs. It fair to say this is throwing up a few challenges.

Kristian Jensen, Work Group Manager – Industrial, says the biggest issue is ensuring that power demand for charging EVs can be provided when and where it’s needed.

“The problem is that everyone wants to do things at the same time and that causes a huge spike in power demand. If people plug their cars in to charge when they get home from work that’s going to increase demand, which is why it’s important to strengthen and improve existing infrastructure.” he says.

For instance, it takes the equivalent of powering 200 homes to fuel an electric bus. While WSP Opus has designed and constructed EV charger facilities for double decker buses of up to 430kW, Kristian says this would be woefully insignificant to meet the charging demand of a fleet of heavy trucks being plugged in after their over-night haulage.

As of January 2019, there were approximately 500 public charging station sites across New Zealand, a ratio of 24 cars to one station. Kristian says that, ideally, charge time would be the same as it currently is to refuel a car – under 10 minutes – so this will need to increase in line with an increase in EVs, ideally to a ratio of four cars to one station.

“The fast charge demand of this nature, even for a light EV with a range of 400km can be staggering, especially if the charge station is charging 10 to 12 EVs simultaneously as you would find at a busy fuel station. What would happen if you added three heavy vehicles into that load?”

Kristian says these problems aren’t unique to New Zealand and are being tackled by many international cities by WSP including in Singapore and London.

I was chatting to my WSP colleagues in Sweden recently and they indicated that the biggest investors in EV charging are the food courts at truck stops. They don’t care what ‘fuel’ is being sold as long as they have customers, because if their customer base drops off it directly hits their land value and turnover.

To prevent a backlog of charging, businesses and public spaces will need to ensure that there are enough facilities in place for charging to be staggered efficiently throughout the day. This can be achieved by developing a Station Implementation Programme for in-demand areas, spaces such as workplaces, supermarkets and parking lots; where vehicles can be left for a number of hours.

A workplace conundrum

That said, the ability for workplaces to provide charging facilities may be easier said than done, particularly when it comes to retro-fitting existing buildings.
While electric vehicle ownership is still very much in the hands of individuals, organisations around New Zealand are starting to transition their fleets. This is being driven by the need for businesses and public organisations to demonstrate sustainable practices by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

WSP Opus is no exception and aims to be Carbon Neutral by 2050 through reducing and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. Given that driving an EV reduces emissions by 80% versus a petrol and diesel equivalent, Ineke Brockie, Group Procurement Manager, says switching the vehicle fleet to EV is a clear solution.

However, as the organisation aims to transition 30% of its pool passenger fleet by the end of the year, one of the challenges is the difficulty of installing charging infrastructure in leased buildings.

“All of our premises are leased buildings and there is an associated cost to us of getting power supply to the carpark. For some sites these costs can be very high. Landlords also have legitimate concerns about the electricity supply and load share of the site, especially for our larger buildings. We also have car parks that are in public spaces, where all of these issues are of concern to landlords. So, while we can put EVs in the fleet, there will be limitations at some sites, meaning we can’t necessarily provide onsite charging facilities at all our premises.”

Insights into these challenges are being incorporated into infrastructure planning, says Kristian, who is confident that the correct infrastructure will be delivered.

“I think EVs will play a pivotal role in New Zealand’s energy future and it’s important we start the discussions today to ensure that we make the right decisions for tomorrow. The type of charging infrastructure installed will ultimately dictate the times we charge our EVs and subsequently the energy demand from the grid. This is how we manage electrical diversity.”

Questions our experts are asking:

  • Where are the vehicles going to sit to be charged?
  • How do we get the power to them?
  • How do we keep them operating?
  • How do we get the range that we need?
  • Who’s going to pay for the investment – and how do you recoup it?

Banner with Chris Hammond, graduate Engineer

Supporting tomorrow’s engineers

Creating what matters for future generations is important for WSP Opus and this purpose has led to partnership with First Foundation to help Chris Hammond (pictured) achieve his academic dreams.

First Foundation brings together New Zealand businesses, individuals, schools and students, to remove the barriers that some of the country’s most talented but financially disadvantaged students face.

This resonates strongly with WSP Opus, which is taking bold steps to increase diversity and inclusion within the business. This has led to sponsoring the inaugural Te Taumata Tiketike Scholarship, of which Chris is the first recipient.

For 18-year-old Chris, who comes from a Māori European background, the scholarship is the difference between studying engineering at the University of Auckland, or not.
The former Aorere College star student is the first of his family to go to university. The scholarship covers part of his tertiary expenses, reducing the load and financial strain on his family.

“This is really important because my family’s income alone isn’t sufficient. I worked hard to achieve to the highest of my ability, but it simply wouldn’t have been possible without First Foundation and WSP Opus.”

About First Foundation

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Since being founded in 1998, First Foundation has awarded 612 Scholarships in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and more recently, Whangarei, Rotorua and Hamilton.

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All students are financially disadvantaged and, in most cases, first in their family to attend university. Research shows that these students are nearly four times more likely to leave higher education after the first year than students who have neither of these risk factors.

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Approximately 80% of First Foundation Scholarship recipients have completed or are still in the programme.

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Approximately 90% of students who have completed their First Foundation Scholarship have graduated with a degree or are still studying.

Research from the National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR) at Otago University found that Māori and Pacific Island graduates were more likely to take out student loans, had more financial commitments and reported worse financial strain (e.g. not having enough money to pay for accommodation) when compared to other New Zealand graduates.

Even with a scholarship the financial burden remains and for this reason it’s important for scholarship students to find the course that will work best for them.

First Foundation’s Amanda Gilchrist says the organisation works closely with its students to help guide them into the most appropriate study path for them, which should focus on something they are passionate about.

“Sometimes there can be family pressure to go in a particular direction and young people can be pigeon-holed. For example, if you have an extremely intelligent young person who hates reading, they are going to really struggle at law school. So, we sit with them and work out their strengths and weaknesses and guide them through those decisions.”

At school Chris gravitated towards subjects he enjoyed which included science, physics and calculus. It was these strengths that made him consider engineering as a career although, like most engineers, he had a fascination for how things worked at a young age.

“I had a PlayStation and if something went wrong with it I’d pull it apart to see if I could fix it. To me it was like a puzzle that could be solved.”

First Foundation stays with its students on their academic journey, supporting them through the ups and downs of coming to grips with university life.

First Foundation stays with its students on their academic journey, supporting them through the ups and downs of coming to grips with university life.

“It’s a massive transition to go from school to university and our experience shows that if someone is going to fail it’ll be in the first semester. It’s our job to support them through this. These are young people who have excelled at school their whole life and are carrying the expectations of their families and, often, their community. That’s a lot of pressure to be under and failing a single paper can feel disastrous, whereas it’s not actually the end of the world, it just means they need to refocus.”

Along with financial support, WSP Opus provides Chris with paid work experience, enabling him to develop skills in a safe work environment and build new networks. Helping him within the company is WSP Opus Principal Electrical Engineer Raj Chand, who was keen to volunteer to mentor Chris.

“I was the first person in my family to go to university and was lucky to have people that took an interest in me. These are the people who helped me tackle problems and make decisions, they helped shape me – so I was keen to pay that forward.”

Raj says that being the first to attend university can be isolating for new students.

“It can be quite intimidating. I was studying with people who were going to be the second or third generation of engineer in their family and was a little envious of them being able to take their assignments home and have that support network to discuss with,”
he says.

Raj says the workplace experience aspect of the scholarship will be of huge benefit to Chris.

“When I was studying electrical engineering, I struggled with the abstract nature of the material. In hindsight, if I’d had the opportunity to go to a site and see things in action it would have been of huge benefit. Because WSP Opus spans every discipline we can support Chris by matching his assignments to projects, so he can incorporate real-world examples.”