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Snow, planes, sustainability and luxury honored at engineering awards

Snow, planes, sustainability and luxury honored at engineering awards

Canterbury's NZi3 Innovation building, luxury Auckland apartments and Rob Fyfe are among winners celebrated at the recent 2010 New Zealand Engineering Excellence Awards in Wellington, attended by more than 360 guests. But taking out the Supreme Award for Engineering Excellence was the Coronet Peak Ski Area Snow-making Infrastructure and Reservoirs— a collaborative effort between Hadley Consultants Ltd, NZSki Ltd and TechnoAlpin. 

Whilst conceptually simple—capturing and using as much as necessary of the water that naturally falls as snow or rain on the ski field region, or is available through groundwater springs—the practical complexities to be overcome were considerable. The mathematical modelling of the water harvesting, storage and use was very detailed. The scale of the pipework and reservoirs necessary, and the need to provide reliable services across a rugged, steep and sometimes unstable landscape and in a highly variable mountain climate were significant. The challenge of storing large volumes of water safely at high altitude was successfully addressed through detailed geotechnical analysis of the land geology. Narrow windows of available construction time demanded a well-planned work programme.  This included detailed protocols in regard to vegetation re-location or reinstatement. 

The project was recognised for directly benefited the Queenstown economy through enabling the Coronet ski field to open and remain open as planned for a lengthened and more predictable ski season. 

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe took the premier individual title— The William Pickering Award for Engineering Leadership. Fyfe completed his studies in mechanical engineering whilst with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He entered the commercial world in 1987 and held a number of management roles in New Zealand before moving to senior management roles with ITV Digital PLC in London in 2000. On his return to New Zealand he joined Air New Zealand, becoming chief executive in 2005.
In 2010, Air New Zealand was awarded the title of Airline of the Year at the Air Transport World Global Airline Awards, testimony to the reputation it enjoys as an innovative industry leader despite its relatively small size. This is in large part due to the transformational leadership and vision of Rob Fyfe.

The application of an engineering mindset as a core part of Air New Zealand’s business is very evident in increasing the fuel efficiency of the fleet, including trialling bio-fuels; improving the fleet through well-timed replacement purchases; humanising the interface at terminals; and rewriting cabin design—initially in business class and more recently in the lie-down economy seat.

As well as creating the environment in which so many technical successes occurred, Fyfe was recognised for transforming the face of the airline by working directly with staff one day a month, his visibility to customers, and by empowering staff to adopt new business approaches embracing technology and social media. The dignified manner in which the tragic events at Perpignan were managed, and his willingness to step up in response to the earlier Erebus tragedy are the mark of a great leader.

Taking out the top Building and Construction award was Aurecon New Zealand Ltd for the Stamford Residences project.

For this project, an additional eleven storeys of luxury apartments were added over the existing ten-storey Stamford hotel building in the Auckland CBD. The project was initiated by the engineers and presented to the client, in conjunction with the architect. Thoughtful design of the construction process and proficient project management minimised impacts during construction, so the hotel was only closed for a period of four months.

“The concept is bold and imaginative,” says Institution of Professional Engineers chief executive Andrew Cleland. “By avoiding the need for demolition and rebuilding it was more sustainable and cost-effective than alternative solutions’
Stamford apartment residents have access to hotel facilities, such as the pool and gym but have their own lobby, lifts and concierge.”

Strengthening works were minimised through an innovative combination of concrete reinforced columns, and strengthening of shear walls through either addition of confining steel plates or by coring holes and grouting reinforcing 14 metres into existing walls. Three tuned mass dampers at the top of the building are used to reduce the wind acceleration experienced by building occupants to comfortable levels. These dampers are designed to shut down in a major seismic event.

The University of Canterbury's NZi3 Innovation building took out the Sustainability and Clean Technology category adding yet another notch to its awards belt. The building has already been recognised with several awards including the New Zealand Green Building Council 5 star education design award, the Designers Institute Gold award for interior design and the New Zealand Institute of Architects Canterbury Architecture award. NZi3 was also short listed for the World Architecture Awards 2009.

Behind its distinctive architecture and unique structural engineering design is a very green building. Whenever possible, the mixed-mode ventilation strategy uses natural ventilation on the upper level via automated windows controlled by the building management system. Under-floor cooling supplemented by heat recovery is used at other times. 

Located beside the College of Engineering, the building is described as an exemplar of leading-edge engineering, befitting its role as an outreach to industry and business.

About the awards

The awards are presented in two major areas: Awards Recognising People, that recognise leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship and our young engineers; and Project and Product Awards, that recognise achievement in the various industry areas, together with a Supreme Award for the best of the Project and Product winners.

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