EXPAN the answer for good returns
With significantly higher commercial insurance premiums looming in Canterbury, along with demand for higher standards of earthquake strengthening from the tenants of tomorrow, Christchurch city property owners find themselves in an difficult position.
To provide the quality reassurance that their new or recommitted tenants require, they are going to have to also be able to prove that the building technologies they are using are the safest around. And yet, building costs must remain competitive enough that inner city rents won’t frighten tenants away.
So what needs to be considered in planning for the new CBD, and how does EXPAN tick those boxes?
From the influx of property owners and developers STIC Chief Executive Robert Finch has had through the STIC offices in recent months, he’s heard time and time again of their concerns that the tenants just won’t sign on the dotted line, without whole new levels of safety assurances.
“It’s very much at the forefront of their minds, because they know they will struggle to get people back in without that reassurance. To be able to offer a price-competitive building with cutting edge seismic design is going to be key.
The ability for businesses to get up and running much more quickly, without the need for relocation, is another key theme that emerges when property owners visit.
“While the safety of people is always our first consideration, the seismic activity we’ve seen here in Christchurch has also highlighted the business interruption headaches inherent in natural disasters."
Cantabrians have had enough of big aftershocks putting workplaces out of bounds for days or weeks on end, and property owners certainly don’t want to see any more of their buildings reduced to rubble. So it’s not enough for a building to simply stand up after an earthquake, the new paradigm in earthquake resistant buildings is buildings that have no structural damage, and can be occupied by people immediately after an earthquake – exactly what the EXPAN system is designed to do.”
When it comes to initial investment for building costs, EXPAN can squarely compete with its steel and concrete counterparts. And a critical benefit of this technology is its rapid construction, enabling the design and build period to be compressed by weeks, or even months in some cases. This means tenants can get into a building more quickly, giving investors an earlier return on investment.
For owner/operators and forward thinking landlords, EXPAN buildings also offer the ultimate flexibility – making it possible to build a structure that is incredibly solid and strong, but at the same time, can be easily picked up and moved.
“That’s something a lot of businesses are wishing for right now,” says Rob. “It sounds like science fiction, but with this technology, it is entirely possible for a business to be able to deconstruct and relocate its office half way across town, or a few streets away if desired.”
“It’s difficult to foresee the direction of the new Christchurch,” Rob says, “Having the ability to build and deconstruct and move has been of great interest to people we’ve had through the STIC offices. They’re nervous about where to locate their buildings, so to think they could build something soon, and then have the flexibility to move it later depending on where the city heads, was really appealing to people.”
The multiple-use potential of EXPAN is also appealing for those who are uncertain about the size and shape of their business premises for the future.
The unique long span design allows for large open floor spaces – something not possible with timber in the past. The space can be fitted as commercial, retail, or apartments, then easily and economically converted for a different use by altering internal, non-structural walls.
A timber building also hits the right notes for aesthetic appeal, and, of course, the ‘s’ word of the moment – sustainability.
“People are very keen on wood, being a natural, sustainable product,” Rob says, “They’re saying they don’t want drab, soul-less buildings, they care about eco-issues, and they love the appearance, warmth and naturalness of timber. The urban design Warren and Mahoney have done for us shows us the potential in timber for contemporary, edgy buildings, so there are some exciting possibilities.”
“Essentially, EXPAN allays all the main concerns we’ve heard from property developers and owners about getting a return for their investment in buildings in the CBD. To get tenants, they need to be able to provide safe, sustainable buildings, that look and feel good. They also need a building that will be there for the long haul – even in the face of further seismic activity.
“If the interest we’ve already seen is anything to go by, timber building technology is going to play a key role in the new face of Christchurch city.”