NIWA’s new purpose-built environmental research complex is situated at the University of Waikato.


About the project

The project consisted of 4 separate buildings:

The main building

A two-storey construction, this building includes 900m2 of advanced laboratory space with extensive bench space, temperature-controlled rooms, wet labs, an electrically/ magnetically shielded room (Faraday cage), a lead-lined X-ray room, walk-in sample/specimen fridges and freezers, a radioisotope lab, eDNA preparatory clean room and multiple fume cupboards for controlled experimentation.

The upper floor provides sophisticated research and office facilities for more than 150 scientists, technicians, and support staff, working across NIWA’s freshwater, climate and marine science disciplines, with extensive accommodation for visiting scientists and collaborators.

Construction materials included 500 to 700mm thick raft slab, a structural steel framework, concrete mid floor, Kingspan warm roof, Precast cladding and curtain wall glazing.

Built to Environmentally Sustainable Design principles, this building utilises rainwater harvesting and the building dynamics to efficiently heat and cool the building. With a 75% waste diversion rate through the construction phase and emphasis on a high level of commissioning and tuning for the laboratory, there was significant input from many of our team to understand, manage and monitor the process. Buy-in and input was achieved from the entire supply chain to get the results for the client.

The store building

A steel structure with timber framing, equitone cladding and standard metal roof, this building contained two instrument labs, a workshop, dive equipment storage and a highly intelligent Dexion racking system.

The chemical store

Built of concrete block, with concrete roof construction, this was heavily fireproofed for the storage of dangerous and explosive goods. The store included a freezer and outdoor sieving area.

The external specialty waters plant room and boat storage

The plant room was constructed for the supply of 5 different water types for the labs.

New scope (sea water, fresh water, raw water) added mid-way through the project presented a significant amount of additional work to finalise the design and coordinate installation. Thanks to the commitment of our building services manager and the services subcontractors, we were able to deliver this within the original project timeframe.

Completion date






Client testimonial

The old NIWA building was about 30 years old, and Regional Manager Michael Bruce says “It had become apparent that a purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility was needed to meet our needs, now and into the future, to ensure NIWA can continue to provide worldclass environmental science.

“We also needed a space that was going to attract and retain skilled people, many of whom could choose to work anywhere in the world.”

Fosters was chosen for this build project on the basis of their reputation.

“Fosters are clear leaders in the Waikato for a project of this size and complexity,” explains Michael. “They’re known as a highly competent team with a proven record. Throughout the entire process, tender to completion, they were an easy team to work with.”


The project team included Fosters, TBIG Project Management, Beca Engineering, Warren and Mahoney Architects, and Labworks. It was a large group to coordinate, on a project with many moving parts.

“Fosters were the cornerstone, keeping the project moving, within budget and on-time,” says Michael. “All the time, meeting our high expectations for Health and Safety by keeping everyone safe on site.”

Building to 5 Green Star Principles was vital to meet NIWA’s sustainability principles. It also added another level of complexity.

“Having this intricate and compact design delivered on time, on budget and to spec shows Fosters were exceptional at organisation and delivery,” says Michael.

“They were also exceptional at communication. This wasn’t just a box-ticking exercise for their team; we were included at every step, and that made the project work so well.

“Working with Fosters was a genuinely professional experience that guaranteed the standards of excellence NIWA required.”


“Working with Fosters was a genuinely professional experience that guaranteed the standards of excellence NIWA required.”

Michael Bruce, NIWA Regional Manager


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