“We’re always looking ahead,” says Shane Hart, Business Development Manager at Insol. “Engineering future façades, that’s what we do.”
When Teulo last caught up with Shane in 2022, Insol had a number of aspirational projects and product developments underway. In particular, they had recently won the design and build contract for the façade of a new multi-storey car park at Auckland International Airport. “That project is currently flying out of fabrication and we’re preparing to install the first panels this week,” Shane says. “The entire project is aiming for completion in the third quarter of 2024 and will involve the fabrication and installation of 8,500 sqm of façade panels between now and then with some complex geometry involved. It’s all go.”
The Insol team has also been working hard to develop new canopy systems this year, which Shane says will solve several well-recognised challenges. “Canopies can be a bit of a curse for both designers and builders because they require many disciplines to come together at one junction: structural steel, glazing, electrical, plumbing, waterproofing and cladding. This can create a real cluster of issues. To resolve this, we’ve developed a proprietary system that can be simply prefabricated in a factory environment and effectively bolt on, allowing for integration of many trades at once.”
Not only does this bring factory efficiencies to the build, Shane says, but it can also make the whole site safer. “Our bolt-on canopies mean that builders don’t have to dodge large bits of steel that can obstruct scaffolding and active build areas. They’re designed to provide a good level of architectural freedom for designers and can incorporate glass, lighting and drainage.”
Insol has several canopy projects underway and many more in the design stage. Shane says Insol is supporting them with product data and details that will soon be available for building professionals. “These software tools will allow our canopies to be incorporated into architectural plans by simply dragging and dropping, which will make the process a lot more straightforward for designers.”
Insol’s industry-leading wind tunnel continues to be put to great use testing assumptions and mitigating risk. This open-jet, high-powered wind facility enables Insol’s team to replicate a range of real-world conditions with 1:1 scale models of façades tested at wind velocities of close to 200 kilometres per hour.
“We’re currently adapting the tunnel so that it can do a cyclical gust test. This essentially tests a how a product will react once it’s subject to continual gusts over time. This kind of fatigue testing enables us to simulate the performance of a facade after many years of constant wind gusts.”
This cutting-edge testing facility has started attracting the attention of offshore clients, Shane says. “As weather becomes more extreme, it becomes more front-of-mind for designers. And as our urban areas become more dense, we’re seeing greater focus on priorities like wind noise reduction. These factors make the wind tunnel an even more valuable testing facility. We’re currently working with some clients in the Pacific Islands, Australia and the US. Ultimately, we have this resource that can add value to projects worldwide, and our doors are open for overseas clients who want to explore that.”
There is also a growing trend for refurbishment of historical buildings, a space where Shane says Insol is increasingly active. “Building owners are realising the benefits – both cost and environmental – of refurbishing rather than building new. Often, you’ll find a great piece of ‘70s architecture that is very solid, but just needs a bit of façade treatment to make it current. We’re currently finishing a project of this type with Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa in Taranaki. Using New Plymouth’s historical Atkinson Building as a base, we worked with them to create a reimagined space called Ngāmotu House that will become a central hub Māori businesses of all sizes in Taranaki.
“We’re expecting to carry on at full speed through 2024,” Shane says. “In addition to completing several large projects including the Auckland International Airport Carpark, continued product development of our canopies and our offshore clients, we’re also nearing completion on several challenging design projects, which our in-house design and façade engineering team are able to handle with ease.”
The overall goal, Shane says, is to keep looking forward and embracing new innovation. “We love challenges and anything façade-related, and we always have our eye on where the technology is going and how we can help designers prepare buildings for the future. We thrive when working with industry professionals on plans or concepts; we can help them turn those ideas into physical realities. We’re always looking to the future, pushing the limits of what’s possible.”
To learn more and connect with Shane, visit https://www.insol.co.nz/ and follow Insol on LinkedIn.