Weak, sub-standard, faulty Firth concrete has now been discovered in The University of Auckland's $200 million city campus science redevelopment and expansion.

Peter Fehl, the university's property services director, announced that part of the new 11-level 23,500sq m block would now have to be demolished.

"The areas in question are a small basement wall and a portion of level 11 floor slab," said Fehl who is in charge of the major changes to the science faculty, headquartered on the corner of Wellesley St and Symonds St and the site of New Zealand's biggest tower crane.

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Yesterday, Fletcher Building announced Firth had stopped production at an Auckland plant following a quality control testing programme which found some concrete had not met product specifications.

Andrew Moss, Firth general manager, said: "Firth will do the right thing by its customers and replace the concrete where necessary as promptly and efficiently as possible."

Fehl said the university was now working with Firth to rectify matters on the science building.

Peter Fehl, University of Auckland property services director. Photo / Greg Bowker
Peter Fehl, University of Auckland property services director. Photo / Greg Bowker

"Firth are carrying out tests to determine the full extent of the problem and it is likely that the basement wall and a portion of the eleventh floor slab will have to be replaced. The impact on the programme is as yet unknown," Fehl said.

The weak concrete was also poured at the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection motorway and tunnel job and the $42 million VXV3 office block behind the new Fonterra headquarters in the Wynyard Quarter near the waterfront.

Fehl is overseeing a $1 billion expansion of the university whose Newmarket site has been a focus with major refurbishment of the ex-Lion brewery buildings carried out but plans are yet to be announced for the balance of the site.

Fehl said the weak Firth concrete had not been poured on any other uni sites.

"Our new Science Building is our only project that has been affected," he said.

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The weak concrete was also poured at the $42 million VXV3 office block behind the new Fonterra headquarters in the Wynyard Quarter near the waterfront.
The weak concrete was also poured at the $42 million VXV3 office block behind the new Fonterra headquarters in the Wynyard Quarter near the waterfront.

The science job, due to be finished by the first quarter of next year, aims to provide state of the art research and teaching facilities for the faculty and a new entranceway to the university.

"The project is part of a ten-year campus renewal plan that is bringing the university's facilities up to the highest possible standard. Construction is underway on the new building (Building 302) that will comprise eleven stories and a basement with a total floor area of 23,500 m2.

Much of the adjacent tower building (Building 301) will also be refurbished, giving a total of almost 38,000 m2 of new or refurbished space. The refurbishment of the science building on the corner of Wellesley and Princes Streets (known as Building 303 or the Mathematics and Physics Building) was completed in 2012. The Faculty of Science is currently discussing the migration details for the occupation of the building in 2016," the university says.

A section of the Waterview Connection scheme has been identified as having used faulty concrete but transport chiefs stress there is no risk to motorists. Photo / Nick Reed
A section of the Waterview Connection scheme has been identified as having used faulty concrete but transport chiefs stress there is no risk to motorists. Photo / Nick Reed

More information about the work is at:
http://www.science.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/our-faculty-3/science-redevelopment-2012-2016.html

The issue

• Firth concrete delivered to many big Auckland sites was too weak.

• Not enough cement had been added to the mix so the concrete would never harden to the required strength.

• Tests were carried out on the big sites to ensure engineering standards were met.

• Those tests identified the issues, which Firth and its parent Fletcher Building admitted.

Weak concrete

• $1.4b Waterview connection for the NZ Transport Agency

• $200m University of Auckland science building

• $42m VXV3 office block, Wynyard Quarter, for Goodman Group and Fletcher Construction

Watch: University refurbishing ex-Lion Breweries site