Project Description

Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Client: University of Canterbury 
Architect: Jasmax / Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke
Ratings: 5 Star Green Star Education (New Zealand)
Size: 25,500 sqm
Value: NZ$200 million

“Our first job in New Zealand, the NZ$200+ million University of Canterbury Regional Science & Innovation Centre (RSIC) in Christchurch, represents an important milestone for us,” notes David Uhlhorn, a director of Umow Lai, an Australian-owned building services consultancy.

David, who is heading the firm’s project team, says that following this significant appointment, Umow Lai will be exploring further opportunities for work in New Zealand with our local partners, and in particular the redevelopment of Christchurch.

Umow Lai has entered into a joint venture arrangement with Cosgroves, a Christchurch-based building services engineering consultancy, to deliver the CRSIC project. Their joint venture is responsible for providing mechanical, electrical, vertical transportation, sustainability, acoustics, security and dangerous goods services.

David notes that the project is benchmarking against the NZGBC Green Star Education Tool, targeting 5 stars, although it will not be formally certified.

The Umow Lai-Cosgroves team was successful against strong competition from a number of multinational design firms.

“I believe that the winning formula was the strong track record of Umow Lai in tertiary education science projects of equivalent size, coupled with Cosgroves’ extensive experience with working with the University,” David said.


The University of Canterbury was established on its current Ilam campus, Christchurch at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. More than half of its buildings, including the majority of those used for engineering and the sciences, date from that period.

The impact of the Christchurch 2010 earthquake put the plans to modernise the University on hold. In late October 2013, the New Zealand Government agreed to provide capital funding to help rebuild/replace the University’s science and engineering facilities. RSIC is one element of UC’s plans to develop world class facilities for science and engineering, part of a significant $260 million worth of NZ government investment support towards strengthening and developing their world class facilities for science and engineering .

This support is allocated to two key developments: an expanded and fully modernised College of Engineering ($145m) and phase 1 of the $200m+ Canterbury Regional Science and Innovation Centre (RSIC), the Undergraduate Teaching Hub, both scheduled for completion by the beginning of 2017. Phase 2 of the RSIC (the Postgraduate and Staff Research Hub) is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2019.

The RSIC comprises:

  • An undergraduate teaching hub with a range of physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology and other science laboratories and flat-floor technology enabled teaching spaces clustered around a large reception area used to showcase the science and innovation work being done at the University;
  • A postgraduate and departmental hub adjacent to the undergraduate teaching hub designed to co-locate academic staff and their postgraduate students with their research laboratories. The facilities will be designed to encourage mixing and mingling within disciplines and across disciplines;
  • Specialist research facilities including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR’s), X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy.

The total area of the facility, which will be developed consecutively over two stages, is approx 25,500 sqm. Total construction budget is NZ$168m. Completion for the entire project is scheduled for early 2019.