Scale of Thorndon project ‘next level’

Scale of Thorndon project ‘next level’
The 100 year-old brick wool store in Thorndon was cut into three pieces to allow for the installation of steel beams and portals.

Residential building company John H Clift Builder Ltd had a recent opportunity to take on a next level project with the earthquake strengthening of an approximately 100 year old brick wool store in Thorndon, for Tilemax owner John Jacobs.
John H Clift Builder has had an existing relationship with Tilemax for many years, having worked on the company’s showrooms in the Wellington region as well as other projects for John Jacobs.
“The scale of this earthquake strengthening project was the next level up for us,” John says. “I haven’t done any commercial work for 30 odd years, since I did my apprenticeship,” he says.
“We generally do house renovations, additions, kitchens, bathrooms, and re-piling, so it was really interesting to go to that next level, with all the different types of equipment required. We’ve had to upgrade our equipment and upskill ourselves to make it all work.”
John H Clift Builder has used Acrow Props on this project which are not often used in housing, and the team has even had to receive training to operate forklifts and scissor lifts.
John says earthquake strengthening projects are normally carried out by large national companies with lots of resources and lots of skills on staff, so for John H Clift Builder to complete it with a couple of experienced builders and two apprentices was a challenge.
“But it was also a great opportunity and that’s one of the reasons why I took it on,” John says.
He says this job was a four-way process starting initially with the building’s owner John Jacobs and engineers Silvester Clark to come up with a plan, then John H Clift Builder started working closely with Silvester Clark to carry out the plan.
John H Clift Builder also worked closely with Best Engineering and steel provider MJH Engineering, who installed 46 tons of steel into the building.
“We put 2.5 to three kilometres of HD12 reinforcing steel in, cages, sprayed concrete walls, and all sorts of things to bring this building up to the building code,” John says.
“It has gone from a yellow stickered building at 37% of code, right up to nearly 90%.”
The brick building was cut into three pieces to allow for the installation of steel beams and portals.
John H Clift Builder dug massive holes in the ground to make room for MJH Engineering to install steel reinforcing cages and steel RSJs of 11m tall and 23m across which go up through three floors of the building.
John says they installed 1.5km of reinforcing steel and 300 steel hooks to support the brick walls, with the team taking turns to complete the laborious task of drilling 300 holes into the bricks over four days. Hilti New Zealand came in to test the bricks were sufficiently strong enough with a hydraulic ram.
“The test had to come back at a minimum 10 kilo newtons, and Hilti tested it at 30 kilo newtons.” The result is an up to code and now rentable building back into Wellington’s commercial property stock.
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