The invisible work behind shopping success.

When shoppers start using the $78 million extensions to one of Auckland’s biggest shopping centres it will be the things they don’t notice that will have the biggest impact.

Lighting, heating, electrical infrastructure, the water systems and even the sound systems help dictate the comfort, the ambience and the shopping experience. And a key component in the success of the expansion to the Botany Town Centre in Auckland’s south-east, will be the design work of the Babbage Consultants building services team.

They worked with the project architects on the designs of the new fashion pavilion and the market square and garden lane fresh food precincts to provide the best lighting systems and air temperature control. At the same time, the four person team spent two months picking through the services infrastructure of the 30-year-old complex and its various additions to understand what was already there, how it worked, and whether it was capable of working with the 4700 square-metre expansion.

Senior electrical engineer Tommy Lee, who project-managed the services work for the Babbage team, says the job has been huge. “It’s taken a huge amount of detailed investigation,” he says. “A lot of the original documentation was out of date or not available, things have been added over time, and we’ve had to do a lot of work to understand that.

“We’ve had to map everything, we’ve had to find underground power cables and we’ve done surveys in multiple layers – while we were doing that we discovered fibre links coming into the site we didn’t know were there. We did all the modelling in 3D and addressed a lot of high-risk items.

“All of that is in the background, but it was essential so the centre could move into the future.” While the infrastructure was identified, risk analysis completed and mitigation plans put in place, the team worked with the project architects and engineers to create the shopping experience visitors wanted.

BTC_MarketSquare_c.jpgFor the lighting it involved analysing systems that would give optimum performance and maintenance while creating the required ambience. That included how lights were sited among decorative ceiling tiles and illuminating special features such as hanging plants and atrium columns. The air conditioning in the fashion pavilion has been designed so air funnelled into retail shops spills into the adjacent common areas, while in the garden lane and market square, radiant heaters and fans to move the air make the areas comfortable in winter as well as summer.

A Siphonic stormwater system was adopted to create a natural suction effect to move the water, making disposal more reliable and allowing for cost savings through the use of smaller pipes.

“Our work has been an essential part of making the centre run at its optimum, making the environment interesting, and enhancing the shopping experience,” Tommy says. “We’ve helped the client achieve its aim of being one of New Zealand’s leading shopping centres.”