Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Christchurch, South Island

WSP Opus services delivered

  • Buildings

Project overview

The devastating earthquakes of 2011 caused widespread damage to New Zealand’s Canterbury region, particularly in Christchurch’s CBD. We helped bring to life the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct – an iconic and innovative building at the centre of the city’s rebuild.


The building needed to be a flagship for ‘Build it Back Green’ and demonstrate to developers how green construction can be affordable and have real-life economic benefits.

It also needed seismic resilience to operate immediately after an earthquake, including a purpose-built Emergency Operations Centre to ensure state-of-the-art emergency response capability for local and national events.


Our Architectural and Building Services team worked alongside Warren & Mahoney and Cox to design and deliver the 40,000m2 precinct. It houses the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police, Department of Corrections, St John New Zealand, the New Zealand Fire Service, Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury.

To act as a ‘Built it Back Green’ flagship, our solution focused on energy conservation, efficiency and sustainability, plus strength and safety. To achieve this, we developed a range of innovative features.

This includes the entire precinct being heated and cooled by highly efficient ground-sourced heat pumps connected to the Christchurch aquifers. This is the largest such system to be installed in New Zealand and is one of the largest in the world. The precinct proves the viability of the abundant aquifers as a cheap energy source for both heating and cooling for other developments in the CBD.

We provided office spaces with highly efficient chilled beams and speed-controlled ventilation systems throughout. All buildings in the precinct have high rates of fresh air for better environments, and all exhaust air passes through very high-efficiency heat recovery systems to compensate. The atrium, the heart of the precinct, is naturally ventilated and makes use of an innovative underfloor cooling loop taken direct from the aquifers below.

With a building importance level 4, the precinct has seismic resilience to operate immediately after an earthquake. In the event of an emergency, the precinct will have independent power, water and waste disposal for at least 72 hours.