Vinegar Lane in Auckland’s Ponsonby is an exciting example of urban redevelopment and medium-density living. Based on the city fringe the street is jam packed with light industrial buildings with up to 100 % site coverage on small freehold lots. These small apartment buildings, designed by different architects to add interest and diversity to the street, have been constructed from precast concrete panels. Precast concrete fabricator Concrete Structures Limited have been involved from the outset, constructing seven of the buildings in the street … all with concrete from Firth.
Prior to any construction and wanting to maximize the return on the development the owner/developer of the land decided to subdivide the original 1.3ha piece of land into small blocks, as opposed to building one monolithic structure. Once he convinced the Council to allow this new form of development in Auckland city he proceeded with his concept which would treble the return per square metre of land.
His view was that freehold titles are far more appealing to buyers and banks, with important considerations such as proportion and density controlled by the design manual, allowing for spontaneity, variety and randomness to occur creating a wonderfully diverse range of facades and buildings.
The development is certainly a success with one of the buildings, owned by Nikki Cliffe and Brendon Poole, being featured in an episode of Grand Designs, New Zealand at the end of 2017.
Three years ago...
Ray Baker, Site Manager for Concrete Structures says, “We started on the first house when the street was completely bare. It looked a bit strange when the first concrete panels went up as they are very narrow sites, 6m frontage, 15m deep and no more than five storeys high.”
Through word of mouth and a good reputation in the industry Ray said they were awarded the contracts on six more buildings over the next three years - with Firth there to help every step of the way.
“We have always used Firth in Auckland and other branches around the country also now use Firth,” adds Ray. “80% of the concrete in each of the buildings went into pre-cast panels which we made at our Manukau yard. Firth South Auckland supplies our yard and the insitu concrete came from the Firth central plants.”
Ray says they were tasked with completing the structure of each of the buildings. The piles, floors, precast exterior wall panels and some precast interior walls were all concrete. Once the structure of each of the buildings was completed they passed on the build to the builder or construction company with the contract for fitting the doors, windows, and completing the interior. “Each of the buildings has quite a different façade which required quite different concrete mixes and colours.”
“I have been working with Ray and the Concrete Structure steam for about three years,” says Paul Martinovich,” sales Representative for Firth. “Vinegar Lane has been a very big job for them and at times it was tricky getting concrete trucks into some very tight inner city streets and spaces. But they are a very good customer and know their stuff and the result is pretty spectacular.”
Paul says that Firth supplied a variety of special mixes for these high-end buildings, with white, black and titanium oxides required. “There were also different strength mixes from 10 MPa to 40MPa depending on where it was going.”
“Some of the panels were coloured, some had triangles in them,” says Ray. “There were all sorts of fancy things in these panels. We rely on Paul and the Firth team to get us the concrete we need. Our success is helped by suppliers like Firth. It is a good relationship, it works well.”