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.”

Arotahi Article Banner - Can we juice it

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

Icon of diploma

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

Icon of money symbol

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.

Icon of graduation cap

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

Icon of book

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.”

Can technology tackle a hotel resort’s laundry pile?


“The hospitality industry is under significant commercial pressure, with room rates stagnating or declining while costs rise. How can we engage and inspire our workforce to be as efficient as possible, while achieving a five-star level of service? For example, what’s the most efficient way to move towels, both clean and dirty, around a 12ha resort? Each weighs 1kg and there are 7,000 of them used across multiple pools and a spa.”

John Shamon / Chief Technical Officer / Kerzner International


A modern twist on the pneumatic tube

Henry Okraglik / Global Director, Digital / WSP / Australia

When I was a kid, pneumatic tube systems were really common. In department stores, before cash registers, you paid your money and they’d put it in a little capsule. Then it was sucked up in this tube to a back office where they would process the order and send the change back in the tube.

Pneumatic tubes are a very simple technology that rely on differentials in air pressure, created by a fan at one end. Imagine you have a tube eight or nine inches in diameter and a capsule that is slightly less, with tapered ends. You can put anything you like in the capsules. In current times, they’re mostly used in the US to make deposits in drive-in banks, and in hospitals for transferring medical samples around different departments.

That’s a more complicated system because specimens have to go to many different locales, but a system for a hotel could be much simpler. It’s just not efficient to have humans go around collecting up towels and carting them to a laundry facility, so why not have hotel staff send bundles of towels in capsules using a tube system? They can travel over quite large distances – in the early 1900s, 27 miles of tubes was used for New York’s mail system, so a resort-sized network should be no problem. The tubes could either end up in the on-site laundry facility or, if laundry is outsourced, to the collection point. I suppose you could extend the tubes to the outsourcing provider’s facility, but that’s probably a stretch too far. You could also use robotics at the other end. The ideal would be that the towel goes straight into the washing machine, and when it reaches a certain number or weight, that triggers a wash cycle. That’s not a particularly complicated technology either.

A lot of buildings today expose their structure and services — you often see exposed cables and ducts. You could make an architectural feature out of the tubes in the same way, instead of hiding them. It wouldn’t be that expensive to install and it could be retrofitted quite easily. You only need a small motor at one end driving a fan, and that could be in the basement. It’s very basic — that’s the beauty of it. It would be cheap to run and kind of cool in an old-school way.

You could even make a novelty out of it for guests, with access to the network in the rooms. They could put their towel in some funky capsule, lift a flap and put it into the tube and push a button, and away it would go. A few minutes later, a clean one would arrive the same way. The tubes could be transparent, so you could watch your towel move through your room and snake through the building.
You could also use the tubes for room service. Food might be tricky, because the capsules travel at 25ft/s, but things like toothbrushes, razors or aspirins would be absolutely fine. If you’ve forgotten your toothbrush, you don’t want to wait for someone to wander up to your room. You usually realize when you go to brush your teeth, so you want your problem solved quickly. Instead of pushing “1” for laundry, you could put your request in the capsule and push “2” for room service or housekeeping, or operate it through an app on your smartphone.

Illustration of drone grasping a cloth


The perfect job for drones or AVGs

Matthew Marson / Head of Smart Buildings / WSP / UK

Let’s talk about the human element first. We don’t want the workforce having to touch the towels because that’s not a fun part of the job. We’d rather have them talking to people, giving the kind of personal service that guests would want because that’s one of the things that makes the resort a lovely place to go to.

When it comes to dealing with things like towels, machines are good at repetitive, low value-added tasks so I’d suggest two types of technology. The first is automated guided vehicles — AVGs for short. They’re a bit like the WALL-E trash compactor robots in the Pixar movie. An automated guided vehicle could go around and hoover up leftover towels, move the dirty ones to a designated place and bring them back, like a robotic worker ant. They are already used in hospitals — I worked on a hospital project in Dublin where clean linens and food were going to be delivered to the wards using AVGs. After all, there’s no point paying someone to push something round when it can push itself around on its own.

As an alternative, if you didn’t want AVGs taking up floor space, you could use drones instead. They could fly in some of the building’s existing service shafts. Or we could take out a service elevator, and that could be the drone shaft. They could fly around, pick the towels up and drop them off. Today, you would need a person to fly the drones, but in six months to a year they could track a set of Bluetooth beacons — you would place these inexpensive beacons along the approved route and the drone looks for that signal and follows it. But in the not-too-distant future, you could fit each drone with a camera and it would be able to pick out the towel and work out its own route through the building. That’s maybe three years away.

illustration of rubbish bin


Robot bins — and more responsible guests

Monica Feghali / Associate, Sustainable Resource Management / WSP / Middle East

This could be managed from an operational point of view. I would assume current practice is that the dirty towels are transferred directly to the laundry area once collected. So there is a lot of back and forth and wasted time on the transfer given the large area of the hotel.

One solution would be to allocate some space in the back-of-house areas for interim storage units or rooms where dirty towels can be placed. This would of course need to be monitored to avoid overflow from high volume generating areas, which is an opportunity to apply sensor monitoring technology — there are several bin brands that offer automated fill sensor systems. This way, the only transfer trips over large distances would be from these interim rooms to the main laundry area, based on a fixed, monitored schedule.
Separately, several transfer methods could be considered to reduce transfer time and labour costs, and ensure the wellbeing of the staff. For example, electric buggies would be an option in a resort-style hotel where there are large enough spaces and routes to accommodate the vehicles. Full bags of towels can get quite heavy, so another solution to support staff would be to store them in tetherable bins and use electric pullers or pushers to assist with the manual transfer.

Some manufacturers have been developing automated bins that can move independently from one point to another. These could be configured so that they detect when they are full and move themselves to the pick-up point. That would remove the manual labour requirement for some specific tasks.

Another solution would be to go back a step and address the source — trying to reduce this 7,000 towel units per day. The hotel brand could roll out an initiative to spread awareness and promote sustainable behaviour among the guests. This is something trending nowadays in most hotels in the region. Some of them even offer incentives if guests reuse their towels, such as small discounts from the bill or additional reward points through their membership programmes.

Thoughts on the All-Electric City

By: Barny Evans
Head of Sustainable Places, Energy and Waste at WSP

Across a diverse array of disciplines including transport, property and buildings, power, water, environment and asset management, WSP Opus’ team of Technical Directors have vast collective experience, gained on some of the largest transformational projects in recent times – both here and abroad.

Think London’s Docklands, the Adelaide Oval, Auckland Council’s landfill management, London’s City Hall, Heathrow Airport’s masterplan, Air NZ’s environmental performance and much, much more.

This depth of experience and multi-discipline approach ensures WSP Opus Technical Directors offer an unparalleled level of expertise not seen elsewhere in the New Zealand market.


We need to stop unnecessary deaths

According to our research, 4,250 premature deaths in London each year can be directly attributed to breathing bad air. One in four residents has seriously considered moving out of the city because
of noise and poor air quality.

We worked out that if electricity could power all of its transport needs and replace gas for heating and cooling, we could reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions that harm our lungs by 37%, and carbon dioxide emissions by two-thirds. So we challenged London, and all other leading cities, to commit to becoming all-electric by 2035.


People want fossil-free cities

In our survey, we found that Londoners were generally in favour of the city becoming fossil-free within the next 20 years.

They supported an electric car-hire scheme, and reducing energy bills was considered a priority. It is becoming standard for new developments to be all-electric and designs have been changed to electric at the request of the planning authority. A lot of people ask where we are going to get all the electricity from. Renewables, energy efficiency and smart energy management with energy storage are already addressing these challenges.


The car revolution will happen quicker than expected

Small numbers of all-electric cars are sold today, but they will become more affordable. Governments are now setting their own targets for full car electrification. Last year, the UK government announced that all cars sold will be electrified by 2040, and France intends to have ended sales of petrol and diesel for cars by 2040 too.

Volvo has stated that it will only sell hybrid and electric cars from 2019 — in one year’s time. Buildings will need electric car charging points, increasing energy demand. So we need to think about what additional equipment will be required, how energy will be stored and how smart energy systems can be introduced.


A gas boiler might already be a bad investment

Heat pumps have a much lower carbon intensity than gas, as well as air-quality benefits. From auditing and modelling buildings across Europe, Asia, Canada and the US, we demonstrated that using heat pumps rather than gas boilers and traditional air conditioning chillers can cut the cost of commercial building ventilation by a quarter as well as reducing nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Electric buildings are reporting lower carbon every year as electricity production itself becomes more efficient. If you install a gas boiler or a CHP engine that will last, say, 20 years, that’s going to look like a bad decision in ten or 15 years’ time (and arguably even now).


We will have a completely different attitude to cooling

People living in cities are increasingly complaining that their homes overheat in summer. Electricity is the only realistic solution for future cooling systems. But in an all-electric city, we will also be able to open our windows.

Streets will be quieter, cleaner and cooler as less heat is generated from building services and vehicles. We will be able to have more open spaces and pavement cafés, and we could put housing in places that are currently undesirable because they are too noisy and polluted.

Arotahi Article Thumnail with people's photos

Rolling out the big guns

Across a diverse array of disciplines including transport, property and buildings, power, water, environment and asset management, WSP Opus’ team of Technical Directors have vast collective experience, gained on some of the largest transformational projects in recent times – both here and abroad.

Think London’s Docklands, the Adelaide Oval, Auckland Council’s landfill management, London’s City Hall, Heathrow Airport’s masterplan, Air NZ’s environmental performance and much, much more.

This depth of experience and multi-discipline approach ensures WSP Opus Technical Directors offer an unparalleled level of expertise not seen elsewhere in the New Zealand market.

Meet the team

Portait photo of Carol Smith

Carole Smith
Technical Director, Environment & Planning

“Sometimes when we work for our clients in the environmental area the benefits of our efforts aren’t always immediately obvious – it is quite different from building a bridge or a new road. Yet when I reflect back on my career I can see that I’ve made a difference for the environment and for our communities.  This is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

With over 20 years’ experience in environmental consulting in New Zealand and the Unted Kingdom, Carole has a well-earned reputation for being strongly committed and versatile, with a multi-disciplinary background involving project management, technical and management roles.

She is passionate about understanding how technology can be used to deliver better results for clients, and believes that being at the forefront of new technologies and approaches is one of WSP Opus’ major strengths.
Like many of our experts, Carole didn’t initially start university with a career as an environmental scientist in mind.
In Carole’s opinion, adapting to climate change, particularly the impacts of coastal erosion, is one of the biggest issues facing local authorities – both locally and globally.

Portrait of Phil Harrison

Phil Harrison
Technical Director, Transport

“I want to leave a legacy of empowered, talented transport engineers and planners that are future focussed and professional with the skills, experience and attitude to make WSP Opus the #1 New Zealand transport consultancy.”

As he explains, the road to becoming a Transportation Engineer was one he stumbled on by accident.

“I was studying geology at Auckland University, and had a holiday job at the Ministry of Transport.  I was coding Traffic Accident Reports, and when I saw all these crashes and the resulting death and trauma I thought ‘wouldn’t it be a great job to try to prevent this?’  I never went back to the geology degree!”

His defining moments are numerous, ranging from crash reduction studies with the MoT in the 80s, working on the regeneration of London Docklands in the 90s, delivering transformational projects in the 2000’s such as Canary Wharf, London Bus and Tram projects and transport planning for the London 2012 Olympics.

Phil says transport faces a number of significant challenges, one of the most immediate is keeping up with the impact of disruption on existing and planned infrastructure with new technologies such as electric transport alternatives, mobility as a service and rapid social changes driving this.

Portrait of Dan Jurgens

Daniel Jurgens
Technical Director, Digital Engineering

“Everything is converging right now and we are being flooded with data, but not intelligence. As Technical Director of Digital Engineering I am across all our disciplines and tasked with connecting the dots to extract collective intelligence. It’s very exciting and the potential is limitless.”

Daniel is passionate about sustainability and is genuinely excited about harnessing the power of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and smart build initiatives to realise project efficiencies and increase sustainability of the build environment across the entire project life-cycle, from inception, design, construction, asset management, re-use to demolition.

His defining career moments include working on the Adelaide Oval redevelopment project where he was exposed to a proper BIM project for the first time, with all disciplines collaborating in a model based environment. It was the sheer scale of this project with a 140-metre wide steel diagrid roof shell that really got him interested in engineering.

Portrait of Bruce Curtain

Bruce Curtain
Technical Director, Buildings

“I relish the technical stimulation of design. Each project is different, with new challenges and opportunities. Teasing out the project brief, analysing and understanding the site constraints and generating a design response is a truly inspiring career. Every day is different and the energy of working with a like-minded team to solve a design makes my job truly enjoyable.”

Career defining moments include collaborating with the artist Billy Apple on a high-rise office competition and the opportunity to work on London’s City Hall Building.

“Geometrically and technically this landmark building was at the leading edge of design and construction. Now it’s an iconic feature on the London skyline. From its high sustainability credentials, complex structural and façade systems and truly civic brief for London’s local authority assembly building, this project was challenging and inspiring to be a part of such a high performing team.”

Portrait of Wayne Hatcher

Wayne Hatcher
Technical Director, Asset Management

“Throughout my career I have gained significant experience working for a broad range of clients in various sectors, countries, political systems and cultures. These experiences and technical knowledge make me well placed to  deal with complex and high risk asset management projects.”

Wayne is passionate about sustaining, managing and maintaining our built environment in harmony with society needs and the environment. Career defining moments include developing a compelling case for increasing investment in motorway maintenance and renewal in the UK in a time of financial austerity, and winning the Hertfordshire County Council Whole Client Service Professional services contract in the UK; a 12-year contract employing over 150 people full time.

He sees technology as the biggest industry disruptor, particularly advancements in data capture that enable better decision making. There will be an increasing need for collaboration around road and water projects in order to overcome the skills shortage, and to gain greater efficiency and productivity across the industry.

Portrait of Jason Bretherton

Jason Bretherton
Technical Director, Buildings

“We are living in an ever-changing world which is heavily influenced by climate change, immigration and urbanisation, social and democratic change, rapid technology advancements and limited resources.”

Jason’s curious mind and interest in how things work led him to a career in engineering and he’s been blessed with opportunities to work on a diverse range of projects across a broad range of sectors ranging from pumping systems in power stations, to electrical infrastructure and control systems in road and rail tunnels. As his practice has grown so has the scale and complexity of the projects and this has seen him involved in building and infrastructure projects associated with schools, hospitals, prisons and commercial buildings.

Of all, the most career defining experience was living through the devastating earthquakes that have occurred in Christchurch and Canterbury since 2010.

“Out of this came the opportunity to apply my skills and work with others and be part of the post-earthquake rebuild and create a modern, resilient and inspiring city that others will enjoy for generations to come.”

VR game Sustain a city banner

Sustain a City

Working with award-winning creative AR/VR studio M Theory, we have combined cutting-edge technology and industry expertise to put the power of city design in the hands of everyday people with Sustain-a-city, an interactive, problem-solving virtual reality game.

Sustain-a-city allows players to build a smart world of the future and help it grow and thrive to an optimum healthy size. Players must choose from a selection of infrastructure components which are then put into their miniature, simulated world – to a certain formula.

All four smart infrastructure components have to be used wisely and in unison, otherwise the overall health of the virtual world plummets. Just like a real city all the elements – power, water, residential and commercial buildings, and transport – need to work in balance in order to thrive.

While the game is about entertaining it is also about educating, by building a micro-world of the future all while using components from real-life WSP Opus projects. These include the Margaret Mahy Family Playground Park, The Justice and Emergency Precinct Christchurch and the Daldy Street and Halsey Street Redevelopment.

With our focus on creating what matters for future generations there is no better way of bringing this vision to life than by enabling people to create their own future world.

Sustain-a-city is a fun and interactive output for a technology WSP Opus already uses on projects. We create virtual 3D models of projects that allow clients and stakeholders to experience the layout of the building, the land and surrounding areas in a virtual environment. That means design elements can be modified or changed in real-time before they become a major consideration or cost during construction.

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