Church College Of New Zealand July 2009 Engineering Report
CHURCH COLLEGE OF NEW ZEALAND – IS IT SUSTAINABLE?
By EL Bydder (PhD, MSc, CEng, FNZIP, MIEE, Chartered Engineer)
July 1, 2009
I have studied detail design drawings of buildings and site plans for the Church
College campus on file at Hamilton City Council. I have also carried out a close
inspection of the David O McKay building in an effort to determine whether it is
sustainable, particularly with respect to earthquake risk and modern earthquake
It may be noted that 43 detailed drawings of the McKay building are labelled both
in the council records and on the drawings as “The Mathew Cowley Memorial
Building.” Clearly at some later stage building names were changed and the
present Mathew Cowley building is a different building on the same campus.
The drawings were filed with the then Waipa County Council in 1956 as part of
the building, inspection and consent procedures.
Additions were made in the 1970s to add a Student Centre, however a study of
those additions is not dealt with in this report.
The Church College campus consists of approximately 60 buildings, varying from
huts and sheds to the David O McKay building, which as the main school building
is the crown of the college. The jewel in this crown is undoubtedly the remarkable
full-size indoor gymnasium/basketball court and auditorium complex. These
spaces can be combined by moving huge folding doors to give an unfettered
open floor space of about 18,000 square feet (1900 m2).
I have considered a report entitled: “Temple View Church Facilities Executive
Report – Church College of New Zealand, Hamilton New Zealand Temple,
Fosters Rd Meeting House” by Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner Ltd.
According to a covering letter to the report, issued by the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints out of a Carlington, New South Wales, Australia office, the
Beca report appears to have been used to cast doubts on the sustainability of the
July 1, 2009 – Second Report on Church College of New Zealand – EL Bydder – Page 1
Although the Beca report is short on technical details, I wish to comment on the
most significant section, “1. Design & Construction”, which implicitly provides an
evaluation of the college facilities. The Design and Construction section of the
Beca report does not single out any particular building for comment, even though
the college buildings range from small single story shelters to the major multi-
storey McKay building with its basketball court, auditorium, gymnasiums, indoor
swimming pool, cafeteria, classrooms, offices and other facilities.
This section of the Beca report states “Generally, however, most load bearing
walls are of masonry construction with occasional light reinforcement. Non load-
bearing walls and shorter load-bearing walls are typically un-reinforced". As
noted earlier, there are about 60 buildings shown in the college Site Location
Plan dated 1956, ranging from sheds and huts to the McKay building. Nearly all
of these are concrete masonry. It is no doubt correct that at least some of these
will have “load bearing walls … of masonry construction with occasional light
reinforcement” and that “some walls are typically un-reinforced” but this is
certainly not the case for the McKay building.
To say the obvious, these comments in the Beca report are of little relevance
because it is not specified what the design and/or construction status of any
particular building is or was. There is no significant danger in having the masonry
walls of a small storage shed un-reinforced (if that is the case), but obviously this
would be intolerable if it were to apply to the McKay building.
The Beca report then asserts that “due to the state of engineering knowledge in
the 1950s the designs essentially considered gravity vertical loads and wind
lateral loads only. Consideration was not given to lateral loads arising from
earthquakes.” With respect to the McKay building, this is certainly not the case.
The detailed design of this building is highly conservative, with heavily over-
designed trusses and massive steel bracing in all dimensions in the roof structure
(drawings 14, 24 and 27). Design load bearing is by way of reinforced concrete
columns and beams to which the trusses are strongly connected (drawings 2, 12,
13, 39). In addition, the spaces between the columns which support these
concrete beams are filled with well-reinforced concrete masonry structures which
are integral with the truss supporting beams (drawing 29). There is extensive
cross bracing of the roof structure by way of 7/8” steel rods with turnbuckles
(drawing 26). This results in a very solid and massively braced structure. The
trusses are so deep and so well connected to the wall structure that they can be
considered as cantilevered.
July 1, 2009 – Second Report on Church College of New Zealand – EL Bydder – Page 2
The tops of the trusses are solidly attached to the steel reinforced concrete
beams and columns typically by way of 4 x ¾” x15” steel bolts set in the tops of
the beams, while the bottoms of the trusses are welded to brackets solidly
anchored in the reinforced concrete columns (drawing 27).
This structure results in immensely strong lateral bracing and anchoring which in
my view is at least equal to that required for current NZ building code
requirements. Similarly, the roof structure strength and bracing is of a very high
standard which would fully meet the current building standards. With their infill of
reinforced concrete masonry with its integral beams, the wall structures are both
capable of bearing a high load and providing high strength lateral bracing.
The Beca report then suggests that as “the buildings were constructed in the late
1950s by church missionary volunteer labour aided by skilled supervision” there
are “a number of instances where there is significant variation in quality between
the design details on the drawing and the actual as-built construction”. I have
carefully and thoroughly inspected the McKay building and compared all the
accessible critical areas such as bracing, connections, welds and the like with the
drawings and can find no discrepancies with regard to the drawings.
I also note that concrete compaction of the reinforced columns and beams
appears to be consistent, based on my visual inspection of the unpainted areas
that can be seen in the roof cavities.
In conclusion, I am confident that the structural design of the McKay building was
thorough, conservative, intelligent and demonstrated familiarity with and use of
bracing and connection qualities that were not in the NZ building codes at the
time. At least a quarter of a century before this building was designed in the
United States, that country was very familiar with the design and building of
massive concrete reinforced skyscrapers. It was also familiar with the problem of
designing in earthquake prone cities. On the other hand, some multi-storey
buildings of a similar age in the Hamilton CBD were built with un-reinforced clay
In any event, the engineering design of the McKay building is of a very high
quality and in my view would fully meet the current requirements of the building
code. Furthermore I would suggest that, far from being an adversity, the use of
dedicated volunteer labour under skilled supervision results in a collective
determination to maintain the highest possible standards, to ensure the fullest
integrity of the building and to produce a result that everyone involved is
intrinsically proud of.
July 1, 2009 – Second Report on Church College of New Zealand – EL Bydder – Page 3
My conclusion is that the David O McKay building is fully sustainable both in its
use of permanent materials and with respect to modern earthquake design
I must congratulate the designers of this building and the personnel involved in
its construction. They have clearly done a magnificent job and it appears that
there was an expectation that the building would become an iconic structure on
the landscape of New Zealand.
July 1, 2009 – Second Report on Church College of New Zealand – EL Bydder – Page 4