Tackling the complexities of the Northcote Development Superlot Developments

Allan Vorster
Allan Vorster
Senior Associate Engineer
Piritahi overview 3

Since the beginning of 2019, Woods has been working as a member of the Piritahi Alliance – an alliance of companies formed to speed up the delivery of build-ready land so that ultimately, more homes can be built faster.

One of the large-scale developments that we have been working on with Piritahi is the Northcote Development in Auckland. We are responsible for the design of the superlots - the individual sites where densification will happen, and housing gets built on – while Piritahi is responsible for arranging consents and construction of the supporting infrastructure such as upgrading the roads, stormwater drains, and all services that serve these individual lots.

There are several complexities with these projects that we have to manage to ensure we deliver the projects on time, on budget, and with a successful outcome.

The complexity of densification and superlot projects

The densification of superlots typically results in maximising the use of the available land area as the site is developed with the aim of housing occupying as much land as possible. This leads to challenges when designing the supporting infrastructure, i.e. retaining walls and below ground services that need to adhere to the Council code of practice.

In Northcote - which is a hilly environment - you invariably need retaining walls which occupy space within a site. On a concept drawing, retaining walls appear as merely a line but in reality, they can occupy up to a metre wide of space which isn’t always acknowledged in the planning stage. When there is no space left for services, it creates challenges and  complexities.

Our approach is to be on top of our game from the outset. We look at what the final outcome of each site is going to be, as opposed to just a concept drawing on a piece of paper depicting a building footprint.

We consider factors such as:

  • Will there be retaining walls?
  • Are the retaining walls going to occupy space that has not been considered on the  layout?
  • Can a public pipeline be positioned so close to the building or retaining wall?

There is a lot of preparation and planning that needs to happen before the drawings are fit for purpose and ready for construction, which helps ensure that we achieve a great outcome for both the client and future occupants of these homes.

Consenting and construction dependencies

There are two main factors that we consider when coordinating between the external Piritahi Alliance works with and the internal consultants on large-scale development projects involving superlots and external infrastructure:

  • Council will only approve a superlot consent application if the external supporting infrastructure upgrade application has been approved, which potentially causes programme delays.
  • The buildings cannot be occupied before the supporting infrastructure is complete and closed out with Council, therefore the construction programme of the supporting infrastructure is crucial.

If our superlot infrastructure is dependent on Piritahi’s infrastructure, we must ensure that we  are both aligned in terms of scope and programme in order to avoid delays.

If Piritiahi don’t have a priority for a certain application or external upgrade that we are dependent on, we need to escalate that and coordinate with them in order to ensure that they are providing the supporting infrastructure to meet our programme.

It is a melting pot of coordination to ensure that all parties are aligned in achieving a good outcome on the project.

Coordinating internal and external consultants to achieve a great outcome

At the end of the day, it comes down to good communication - asking the correct questions and agreeing on the scope and program upfront. It is crucial to ensure all parties are clear on what is expected of the outcome and there are no misunderstandings of each entity’s scope and what deliverables are required of them. Getting these agreements in place is crucial in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Woods have extensive experience and the necessary skill set required to deal with complex sites and complex interfaces with other consultants. The Northcote Development project has been a great demonstration of our excellent communication and coordination with external consultants in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Allan Vorster - Senior Associate Engineer