NIWA officially opens its modern laboratory facility in Hamilton

NIWA Hamilton staff outside their new research facility at the University of Waikato.

A new purpose-built research facility has been designed to support and inspire world-class environmental science. Dr Michael Bruce, Regional Manager Hamilton for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), says the new laboratory facilities at its new base at the University of Waikato, have been designed to promote a dynamic and collaborative work environment.

Tane Te Wairoa was officially opened on a cold frosty Waikato morning in August last year by then Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Dr Ayesha Verrall when she unveiled a beautifully carved anchor stone and six-metre long paddle on the entry wall. “It was a very special moment for us all. So many people had been involved since the inception of planning for our new Waikato headquarters and especially the strong partnership between Tainui and NIWA that we value so much,” Michael says.

It is one of three core projects forming the NIWA Future Property Project strategy. The Hamilton build is the first to be completed, with future developments in Wellington and Christchurch planned.

Tane Te Wairoa comprises a new two-level 4,500-square-metre building with specialist laboratories and visitor facilities on the entry level with flexible office accommodation on Level 1 along with a separate 1,200-square-metre storage and workshop building. Designed by Warren & Mahoney Architects and built by Foster Construction, Tane Te Wairoa is a stone’s throw from NIWA’s original base on the campus.

“We had been looking at our buildings for six years leading up to the decision to invest in these state-of-the-art facilities. The building we were in grew organically over 30 years as NIWA’s work expanded. It ended up being not really fit for purpose as a modern laboratory facility.”

Experts from Fosters Construction, project manager TBIG and specialist lab designers Labworks, all contributed to the final design. Consultation with stakeholders to inform design decisions extended over two years. Construction took 18 months, spanning the COVID years and Michael says given this, to deliver the project on time and to budget was a testament to how well the build team worked together.

There’s a lot that goes into great lab Michael says. ”It’s a dynamic environment with a lot of movement, and our labs have been specifically designed for broad use.”

“As scientists, collaboration and discussion are incredibly important, so our open plan design had to support meaningful staff engagement and camaraderie.”

While Tane Te Wairoa is one of several NIWA facilities nationwide, Michael says the Hamilton facility undertakes a considerable variety of fieldwork. The main research building contains a variety of spaces, ranging from temperature-controlled rooms for experimental work with fresh or saltwater fish and shellfish, aquatic plants, pollution mitigation and analytical and water quality labs.

The store building is home to two workshop-style laboratories for 3D printers, electronic and instrument calibration. “We have storage for three types of specialty waters – sea, spring and raw water – which are supplied to various laboratories from the ‘tank farm’ outdoors. We can adjust and control the temperature, through a heat-exchange process, depending on the purpose of the research undertaken.”

One of the key benefits, Michael says, that came from the $45-million project was it allowed staff to really think through ways to become much more efficient and collaborative. “As scientists, collaboration and discussion are incredibly important, so our open plan design had to support meaningful staff engagement and camaraderie.”

“Although I was involved throughout the design process and knew what we were going to get, I was still surprised by how nice the office environment actually is, due in no small way to the excellent acoustic control, achieved with simple but effective materials and layout.”

Designed very much with the future in mind, Tane Te Wairoa promises to inspire future generations of scientists and underpin NIWA’s ability to continue to deliver the excellent science needed for the foreseeable future.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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