NZi3 Innovation Institute
The NZi3 Innovation Institute is an ICT innovation facility at the University of Canterbury, accommodating post-graduate researchers, staff, and private sector research personnel.
A hothouse for strategic ICT research, the NZi3 Innovation Institute's mission is to take innovative ideas from the lab and transform them into solutions for industry.
A commission to design an innovative technology centre at a renowned tertiary engineering faculty is inevitably an invitation to re-explore connections between structure and technology. It is a well beaten path, fraught with potential for complexity and perhaps a temptation toward exuberant formal expression. With this in mind, our design opts for some bridge building instead.
There are two main components to the new 2,300m2 building. On the lower level, an arrival space facilitates public display and interaction. The arrival space also incorporates a number of meeting rooms. Above this area there is a large flexible workspace for post-graduate students, staff, and private sector research personnel. The flexible space encourages collaboration and makes it easy for the various groups to share their knowledge.
The upper floor of the building is considerably larger than the lower floor. This provided an opportunity for a structurally-exciting response and, after an exploration of ‘hands-free’ technology, resulted in a building of cantilevers rather than columns.
In keeping with the innovation theme, the new facility is New Zealand’s first education building to be awarded a five-star green rating.Environmental design was integrated from the outset. The orientation, overhangs, plan shape and orientation were all tested to optimise daylighting, natural ventilation and solar design. The structural design also became an integral part of the environmental thinking, conceived as a system with inherent flexibility to allow future adaptation. Thermal mass and the glass skin where carefully optimised to provide not only the desired environmental but also architectural outcomes. Simple water-smart techniques such as rainwater harvesting, water-efficient plumbing systems, drought-resistant landscaping and extensive rain gardens are also incorporated into the design.