University of Auckland – Waikohanga House

Reviving a heritage building to inspire future research

A new lease of life has been given to a 1940s block of apartment buildings at 44 Symonds Street, Auckland. After many years serving as inner city social housing, it's now home to visiting overseas postgraduate students and their families.

The five-storey Block A sitting conveniently in the heart of the University of Auckland’s campus has benefited from a complete makeover, with new services, seismic strengthening, improved foundations and fully refurbished interiors.

Restoring heritage buildings is complex yet rewarding, and our engineers faced a number of challenges to bring it back to life. A small and steep site made excavating and strengthening the foundations difficult, and the presence of asbestos required careful removal before the real work could begin.

Auckland Council, Heritage New Zealand and the University were all involved in the restoration as stakeholders. As a Class A heritage building, the exterior needed to remain visually true to the original, with any new elements to look entirely different. Aluminium conduits sit on the rooftop, and the adjacent Block B has a shiny new steel two-storey extension.

The 49 one and two-bedroom apartments now have a modern sprinkler system, LED lighting and fully opening windows for natural ventilation. A new transformer manages the electrical requirements of modern apartment living, and the old furnace on the ground floor has been replaced with a communal laundry and rubbish room.

Waikohanga House is no longer forgotten; but playing its part in the world of research and PhDs.


Refurbished Apartments


Heritage building


resource consents

Working on an historic building made us think differently. We had to enhance the building to be safe, comfortable, and efficient, within the confines of the existing structure – success was a building that looked like we hadn’t been involved at all!

Shane Vinnell,

Senior Mechanical Engineer

The project team obtained 6 Resource Consents, 6 Building Consents and transformed the building just 10 months. Beca was fundamental in minimising the impact of the works on the heritage fabric and achieving a great outcome within the budget.

Peter Fehl,

Director of Property Services, University of Auckland

Services We Provided

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What We've Done