Earthquake Resilient PC3 Lab Wins Major NZ Engineering Award

Taking a collaborative approach to a Trans-Tasman construction project was a rewarding undertaking for Australia’s largest privately owned mechanical services contractor AE Smith, with the University of Auckland PC3 Laboratory winning Gold for lead engineers Beca at the Association of Consulting Engineers New Zealand (ACENZ) 2013 Innovate Awards

13 Sep 2013


Because of New Zealand’s earthquake rating, there were quite a few specific details to consider on this project

AE Smith’s Project Manager Tim Flanagan identified several other major positives, including the strong links formed between the AE Smith team and the NZ personnel, and the knowledge gained from resolving site-specific challenges. A PC3 (Physical Containment Level 3) lab is a complex undertaking due to the requirement of maintaining an environment free of external airborne contaminants, which also delivers physical containment of the pathogens within the facility. To achieve this, state-of-the-art Australian-made HEPA filter systems were integrated into the ductwork for both intake and exhaust.

Because the Auckland PC3 lab was the first of its kind to be built and certified in New Zealand, AE Smith were invited to work on the project due to their substantial track record in both Physical Containment labs and Quarantine Control labs in Australia, including KBRB for CSIRO, the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in Melbourne. AE Smith managed the project from their Brisbane office, with Tim Flanagan flying across to New Zealand regularly, a fulltime AE Smith Site Manager deployed in Auckland for the six month duration of the construction process, and commissioning technicians commuting across as required.

“All the stakeholders and construction team worked very well together,” commented Tim. “Beca were heavily involved with design, and AE Smith added technical and practical expertise. A local subcontractor, BTL designed and constructed the control side of the system with our guidance, and they were exceptional, they really brought it all together.

“Working in different countries is a great experience, because you see different ways of doing things. Even though we were taken over there as the ‘experts’, we realised we could not only help but also learn from our New Zealand colleagues and subcontractors.

Elderly man smiling broadly while nurse with blond hair smiles and looks at him fondly.
“Because of New Zealand’s earthquake rating, there were quite a few specific details to consider on this project. For one thing, the beams of the buildings have to be deeper and thicker, which gave us less room to work with, and we also had to allow for things like ductwork to move without the movement breaking the seal of the room.

“There were specific measures employed to ensure the room wouldn’t sustain major damage. We used flexible connections, though we also had to ensure those were not exposed to damage from the strong cleaning chemicals which are used in the lab.

“Congratulations to Beca on winning the prestigious ACENZ Innovate Awards. At AE Smith, we believe in helping people in everything we do.

We’re delighted our PC lab experience and technical expertise has helped Beca and the University of Auckland win.”