Hutt Valley High School - Block B Seismic Upgrade
Hutt Valley High School is one of the country’s largest co-educational state secondary schools, and has a history stretching back more than 80 years. With this long service record comes an eclectic range of buildings, many constructed before seismic stability was a priority.
S&T recently led the assessment of two wings of the school’s largest and oldest block, B Block, constructed in stages from around 1940 to 1970. A seismic strengthening solution that would also offer the school maximum flexibility and ability to transform old teaching spaces into 21st Century learning environments was required.
At the outset of the project S&T conducted a number of onsite investigations in conjunction with the structural engineer, Silvester Clark Consulting Engineers, to establish what was required to bring the buildings up to code. This was accompanied by consultations with key staff to determine what improvements the school wanted to prioritise. Subject to a tight timeframe and budget, this project required careful targeting of priority areas for architectural input that extended beyond the making good of structural interventions. These included:
- the Science Department's teacher office and resource space, which was small, crowded and poorly laid out
- the Social Science classrooms, which were unevenly sized and dated
- the connection point of the two wings which had a variety of different floor levels
The final detailed design included significant seismic strengthening by way of steel portal frames threaded into the buildings and disguised with new cladding, and the addition of bracing elements to existing walls and ceilings. To improve access into, around and between the two wings, new external doors were added at ground floor and a new circulation hub at first floor, with a new specialised lift connecting all various levels of the block for accessibility.
The removal of solid walls and the introduction of glazed sliding doors and glazed partitions between classrooms and in staff areas improved transparency and flexibility of spaces. A re-arrangement of the Science Department's staff offices and resource room opened up areas allowing for improved storage capacity, the addition of a kitchenette and meeting spaces. Finally, new finishes in selected parts of the building brought the interior design up to standard with newer school blocks, and gave a clean and modern feel.
This project has received high praise from school staff, who are now enjoying more functional and pleasant office areas and resource rooms, and who have more flexibility in their classrooms – all alongside greater comfort from a seismically strengthened work and learning place.