Nullarbor terracotta roof tiles from Monier Roofing were used in a unique application during the redevelopment of the Wellington Hospital, the region’s largest public hospital.

Opened in 1847 in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, the hospital has seen many incarnations with its most recent redevelopment drawing on its iconic 1928 red brick and rendered facade to deliver a modern day aesthetic that responds to both its urban environment and sense of history.

Planning for this development began more than a decade ago, with Australian hospital specialists, De Carlo Potts (Rice Daubney) engaged to complete the health planning and design work, and NZ based architects Craig Craig & Moller (CCM) to take over as the principal consultant and see the project through to completion.

The hospital’s redevelopment included the construction of a new 48,000m² building, the refurbishment of over 15,000m² of existing space, and extensive earthworks, including the demolition of the familiar Riddiford Street facade.

The articulated facade of the facility allows the high-density elements to be set back on the site, while the building’s lower levels engage directly with the immediate streetscape. Monier terracotta roof tiles have been installed on the lower levels in a unique vertical application specifically designed for the project to provide a contemporary response to the original structure.

John Rogers from CCM Architects explained that the brickwork of the old entrance and administration building was a recognisable landmark, and they wanted to retain its essence in the new construction. However, they were obviously mindful of the impracticality of using conventional brickwork in an earthquake prone region like Wellington.

After considering a range of options for this application including prefabricated reinforced brick panels and engineered masonry wall systems, the architects chose the Monier Nullarbor terracotta roof tile system. An onsite trial using massive 4x4-metre sample panels constructed in-situ confirmed the tile’s structural stability and water penetration. Interestingly, the Monier roof tile system outperformed even the highly regarded engineered option, and also proved to be the most cost effective solution as well.

Over 38,000 Nullarbor terracotta roof tiles were used in the installation, with each tile meticulously laid onto a timber matrix consisting of 75mm x 50mm battens mounted to a series of 150mm x 50mm vertical studs, and spaced at 400mm centres. To ensure the system’s longevity, each tile was individually fixed at three points using 316 grade stainless steel screws and storm clips.

Monier’s Nullarbor tile was selected not only for its standout performance but also for its natural earthy tones, which added warmth and texture to the streetscape.

Since the completion of the Wellington Hospital redevelopment almost five years ago, the region has been subjected to numerous earthquakes of varying intensity, including a quake registering 5.4 on the Richter scale in 2013. During this entire period the Monier terracotta roof tile system has proved to be a durable, functional and aesthetic addition to this impressive civic building.