The architect, developers and builders of New Zealand's largest new office tower and shopping centre have toured some of the world's best buildings before they start their big new job.

In June, Precinct Properties will begin the 39-level $681 million Commercial Bay on the site of the Downtown Shopping Centre opposite the waterfront on Quay St, so the bosses visited Europe and the United States, partly to examine glass and steel.

Scott Pritchard, Precinct Properties' chief executive, returned from the trip on Thursday and said the tour group comprised Fletcher Construction project manager Richard Coupe, Warren and Mahoney architect Blair Johnston and Precinct executives.

They visited buildings in San Francisco, New York and Munich.


Pritchard said examining options for glass curtain walls and structural steel products, where and how those were manufactured, their specifications, performance and installation requirements were some of the main reasons for the trip.

Buildings in San Francisco the team visited included the Salesforce Tower skyscraper and new premises for LinkedIn.

In New York, they visited the first new World Trade Center buildings as well as the Freedom Tower, particularly examining the curtain wall glass options.

New York was one of the cities the Precinct Properties and Commercial Bay tour group visited. Photo / Getty
New York was one of the cities the Precinct Properties and Commercial Bay tour group visited. Photo / Getty

"On glass, we'll spend around $65 million," Pritchard said of the Auckland project, making that New Zealand's most expensive glazing project.

"On steel, it will be about $40 million to $50 million."

Pritchard said one of the most interesting aspects of the tour was how retail had changed and was evolving.

"The CBD presence is as much a marketing tool as it is a sales outlet," he said of shops visited overseas including Munich's Funf Hofe. The importance of designing a retail centre which complimented the existing CBD landscape was apparent, he said.

That was planned at Commercial Bay, where a new east-west laneway will be created.

However, Pritchard indicated shops had been designed to form a streetscape.

"Because we own the neighbouring HSBC and the floor levels line up with the new development, we can push out and create active edges which we don't have [currently], creating an outwardly focused retail centre," he said of the new 105-shop mall planned.

Pritchard said he had noticed rejection of hot desking, where people share work stations or desks and often have no assigned position in their offices, in the United States.

"There's been a move away from activity-based working which is fascinating. They are questioning the levels of productivity as a result of people not having their own desks," he said.

Floor office to tenant ratios in the US were close to a generous 20sq m, whereas in New Zealand that ratio was down as low as one tenant per 12 sq m, Pritchard said.

Commercial Bay office levels were designed for working flexibility.

"Commercial Bay is designed to cater for density ratios which are very high, easily 1:10. Yet it will still be a pleasant environment. The key selling point is 3.1m ceiling heights and an enormous amount of natural light," he said.

"We also learned what not to do on this trip too - not so much mistakes as just where you can improve," he said.

The project's shops are due to open by October 2018 and the tower mid-2019.

The tower is to be built on the block between Lower Albert St, Queen Elizabeth Square, Customs Street West and Quay St where the ex-Westfield Downtown now stands.

World Building Tour

• Salesforce Tower, San Francisco
• New premises for LinkedIn, San Francisco
• Freedom Tower, New York
• World Trade Center towers, New York
• Funf Hofe shopping arcade, Munich
[Source: Scott Pritchard, Precinct Properties]