Auckland skyscraper plans delayed due to fire design

3:39 pm on 1 May 2018

A skyscraper planned for Auckland that will be New Zealand's highest residential building is caught up in a long delay over its fire design.

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Photo: 123rf

A year ago, the designers of the 52-storey Seascape Apartments asked officials to approve having just one stairwell for the top six floors of penthouses, instead of two.

Determinations on such requests are meant to be issued within about three months, but no such ruling had yet been made.

"MBIE accepts the statutory decision timeline of 60 days has been exceeded with this determination," Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment determinations manager Katie Gordon said.

"There has been substantial volumes of information and viewpoints to consider in this assessment, and it is important that the information is given adequate consideration to arrive at the best determinations outcome."

Developer Shundi Customs has so far not been able to be reached for comment.

Its general manager Harrison Shao had previously said marketing of the apartments would begin halfway through the construction to demonstrate fit-out quality and provide more confidence to purchasers than selling off plans.

Construction began on the 187m-tall, 221-apartment building in Customs Street in February, even though the fire design issue remained unresolved.

Auckland Council raised fire design concerns early last year, prompting the tower's fire engineer to seek a ministry determination.

The council said it could not comment while a ruling was pending.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is understood to have also been concerned.

Some fire engineers also claim the ministry has failed to address the fire rules around tall buildings properly due, in part, to it mishandling an overhaul of fire regulations five years ago.

The ministry brought in the latest of these changes in March, aimed at removing inconsistencies in the fire rules for tall buildings.

Shundi, a New Zealand-based company backed by a property developer in China, Shanghai Shenshun Investment, has contracted China State Construction to build the Seascape.

All the structural steel - about 10,000 tonnes - was coming from China, from JingGong Steel.

JingGong and China State must supply plans for steel inspection, testing and quality, Auckland Council said.

One of the inspection questions includes whether the steel is certified by the Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing and Structural Steels.

JingGong does not appear on this agency's register, meaning it must go through extra steps to get approved.

Steel samples would be tested at various labs including in New Zealand, the council said.

The tower was designed with an external structural steel frame to improve the views, Shundi Customs said.

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