Emerging from the ground of Latimer Square in Christchurch is a building complex designed almost entirely around the benefits of concrete, from its foundations and frame through to its cladding.

Although the concrete elements of the old Latimer Hotel performed well during the earthquakes, damage to the lightweight structure and site subsidence meant the owners decided to demolish and rebuild.

Once complete the new Latimer Hotel will be comprised of 5 “Blocks”, A through to E, arranged in such a way as to align with the urban design objectives of the Christchurch City Council’s central city plan.

With a non-negotiable emphasis on creating a resilient building that offers safe shelter in the event of any future seismic events, it is the buildings’ foundations that have attracted attention. A quick glance at the numbers indicates why.

Almost 4 months in construction, the foundations for Block B and Block C consumed around one third of the project’s budget and 900m3 of concrete in total. 225 piles, 17.5m deep and 750mm in diameter, were drilled and filled with concrete before the steel reinforcing cages were inserted. On top of the piles sits a 1m deep raft slab.

The placing of the foundations’ concrete was completed in three separate pours, including two pours that took about ten hours. Allied Concrete Ltd has been the ready mixed concrete supplier to date.

Another key design feature of the Hotel will be a ‘seismic gap’ between each structure. A contributing factor to the damage sustained by the Hotel in the February 2011 quake was that during the event the buildings literally smashed up against one another. With predicated movement at the top of each tower potentially up to 20mm during an 8 magnitude quake, the 180mm ‘gap’ will act as a buffer.

Under the direction of recently appointed main contractor Lanyon & Le Compte Construction Ltd progress on the $25 million rebuild has gained pace following a lull in activity since May when the foundations were completed.

“The structure of A Block, which houses the restaurant, bar and conference facilities, is now complete,” say Shane Le Compte. “Although we still have three 5-storey towers and one 4-storey tower to build. With the exception of some steel framing at the front of Block B, all these will be concrete structures.”

Along with further concrete foundation and structural work, a significant part of the remaining build will be the manufacture and installation of many precast panels.

“We have a precast yard in Bromley,” says Shane “which will be extremely busy over the coming months making over 900 precast panels with an approximate average size of 20m2.”

Targeting a completion date of early January 2013 for A Block and early December 2013 for the complex, an operational Latimer Hotel will symbolise the spirit of a City that is ‘open for business’.

Taken from the October 2012 NZRMCA Newsletter

Images – Stephen Dickens