Five minutes with Neil Barr


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Atlas’ key representative in New Zealand talks about the challenges facing the New Zealand construction industry: lack of skilled builders, architects and technicians skilled in seismic design, accessibility laws and water tightness.


New Zealand’s challenges seem quite unique Neil.
They are. Other countries and regions have to deal with earthquakes – such as Japan, Canada and California; Vancouver, Canada also has to deal with water-tightness; but I believe New Zealand is the only region which has such stringent accessibility laws. We are required to design and build to higher standards of accessibility, water-tightness and seismic resilience. We also use different materials for housing – we use more timber as it’s plentiful and earthquake-resistant.


So how does Atlas help the industry to respond to these challenges?
A good example is the work we have done on Christchurch Town Hall which was badly affected by an earthquake in 2019. It’s locally regarded as an architecturally significant building, designed by New Zealand practice Warren and Mahoney so it was important to restore it carefully – including the soundproofing panels, all of which moved significantly during the earthquakes.

Following the earthquake, our team conducted a cloud point survey and built a Revit model in conjunction with Warren and Mahoney Technologies. We took the original as built drawings and overlaid them with a new Revit model plans. This allowed us to understand building movement and how to restore the Interior back to Its original positions


What else are clients talking to you about?
They’re actually asking about the team they’ll be working with. They know we work well in the cloud but they still want to know that they’ll be working with good people – who deliver on the unique challenges in New Zealand. Kiwis tend to be quite direct and they like having honest relationships. This can be a challenge for us when dealing with other business cultures.


And what technology is impressing the industry?
They’re interested in what we are doing internationally – and the fact that we’ve done so much of it remotely, using an in-country team backed by the skilled team in our Vietnam operation centre. This was the case with our work with Hong Kong International Airport and with the baggage facilities in Changi Airport. It was complex, yet accurately delivered. All these projects show how our skilled team can supplement those of our clients – even when we’re not close by!


Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Neil!