Burwood Hospital Spinal Unit Upgrade

Upgrade of the spinal unit, which caters to very vulnerable patients, was an important milestone in post-earthquake rehabilitation for the Burwood community.


  • Christchurch, New Zealand


  • Canterbury District Health Board

Project Value

  • $5.5m

Project Status

  • Complete: April 2017 - September 2019

The Spinal Unit upgrade at Burwood Hospital offers an increased area of modernised inpatient facilities with improved medical and clinical areas, and enhanced staff and whanau support facilities contained within a seismically strengthened and repaired structure at 100% NBS IL3. The unit consists of a 26-bed ward and a 4-bed transitional rehabilitation unit, offering inpatient services from the acute stage including pre-operative through to rehabilitation and discharge. planning.


The building suffered liquefaction induced damage during the Canterbury Earthquake sequence, including differential floor settlement. A seismic assessment rated the building as 40% NBS at Importance Level 3 (IL3). Earthquake damage was scheduled for repair alongside seismic strengthening to 100% NBS (IL3) and construction of a significant extension to the existing facilities. An upgrade to the existing building and clinical services were also required to facilitate the extension.


The building consists of a single-storey lightweight timber framed structure on suspended precast concrete ground floor slabs. Building services and medical plant rooms are supported on a two-storey reinforced concrete structure. The roof framing required strengthening to support the addition of patient hoists.

We worked closely with the project Architect to achieve the desired roof height profile as a wind-break shelter. Our experienced engineering team worked efficiently to design an economic solution for the integration and upgrade of services required to suit the user requirements confirmed via stakeholder engagement workshops and full-scale room mock-ups.

We approached this project collaboratively with regular design coordination workshops, working alongside the Lead Architectural, Geotechnical, Fire Engineering and Quantity Surveying consultants to provide economic engineering design solutions, considering safety in design through all project stages, including the use of innovative design principles to meet the client’s objectives.

During the concept design stage, our team led a value management review of the architectural roof options for the extension, including identifying efficient service routes, saving the client approximately 10% of the construction budget. Following this we worked alongside the Architects and design team to provide coordinated Building Code compliance documentation to obtain Building Consent approval from Christchurch City Council and provided the client with Tender documentation and construction advice.

Throughout the construction stage, our team provided regular inspections as the works progressed on site, along with responding to construction query RFIs, particularly where variations to the scope needed to be confirmed following opening of existing linings. We worked with the different Sub-Contractors to provide suitable seismic restraint details for their services. Our team provided valuable advice to the client to enable the project manager to facilitate quick decisions to resolve construction issues as they arise.

Along with Contract Administration, our team provided a final construction review and Code of Compliance sign-off at the completion of the construction works. Complexities which arose during the design and construction included the integration of new extensions to the existing services, to fit within the available roof space and to service the additional rooms, increasing service runs and transitioning between the existing building and new extension wing, flexible service pipe connections for the installation of expansion and swivel joints to allow for differential seismic movement of the extension relative to the main existing building.