Hamilton Kirikiriroa Airport is a waharoa; a vital gateway to the mighty Waikato region. A requirement for seismic strengthening initiated the project, followed by a requisite refurbishment and the perfect opportunity to introduce a cultural narrative to the terminal. Airport research indicated the travelling public felt the airport was soulless and in need of a refresh to be more welcoming, culturally relevant and to provide a sense of place. In short, an airport that people can be proud of. The aim for the project was to leave the terminal in a better condition than we found it.
Just prior to commencement of the upgrade, the initial COVID-19 pandemic period hit, and the airport put the project on hold. A year later, on a recommendation from our team and the consultant team, they decided to proceed, which proved to be a very good idea. While COVID delays caused resource constraints, the original contract price and schedule was maintained, excepting mandatory lockdown periods. The team encountered various challenges due to the pandemic, including material shortages, limited resources, and isolation requirements.
Working within a live airport environment, and a lack of complete as-built information for the existing building, proved a challenge from the start and led to changes in the foundation design and structural steel detailing. This in turn, created further difficulties due to longer lead times for new reinforcing materials during the pandemic. We mitigated these difficulties through close collaboration with the contractor, and proactive management of the supply chain and sequencing alterations.
Representing the cultural diversity and narrative of the region was vital to the project, thus cultural ambassador Norm Hill, was bought in to help the airport create an identity and a connection to place, purpose and planet. Meaning and cultural symbolism was woven into every aspect of the project and the airport now reflects the cultural heritage of the region.
Seismic strengthening was a crucial component of the building due to its mixed structure of rigid concrete beams and lightweight timber, so a seismic gap was introduced that allows the two parts to operate independently in a seismic event. The airport remained operational during the strengthening process which opened up the entire building, to include a range of beams, columns and bracings to anchor the building to the ground. This improved the building's NBS rating to 80%.
Overall, the updated terminal design embodies the region’s rich cultural heritage, while retaining functionality and providing safety during seismic events. A strong connection to the local community has been woven throughout the design and all the artists whose work is now resident in the terminal, have Waikato whakapapa so that home, looks like home. An underlying goal for this project was to ensure the team left it in a much better state than they found it, and that has definitely been achieved.