Designing Māori health and well being into a building

Nga Purapura Entrance

The intent of Ngā Purapura sports facility was to focus on physical health outcomes including sports, gym, nutrition teaching, and related academic studies. The client wanted to create a world class training facility to bring the wider community together and inspire the users to fulfill their goals and aspirations. PrefabNZ case studies "How to prefab" includes Nga Purapura Sports facility, download the case study here

The brief required two international netball courts, a fully functional and fit-for-purpose gym, a consultation clinic, two 30-student classrooms, cafeteria space, and a commercial kitchen with a seating area for 20 people. Key aspects of the project were to incorporate tikanga Māori, Māori culture, telling the story of the Wānanga, place of learning, and providing a facility to uplift Māori health and wellbeing. It was also important to use local and low-embodied energy materials and to use local labour.

The design gives expression to Mason Durie’s whare tapa whā, model of health. The model encapsulates the four cornerstones of Māori health and well being; te taha wairua (a spatial dimension), te taha tinana (a bodily dimension), te taha whānau (a family dimension), and te taha hinengaro (a psychic dimension). The project also required a space for introduction and quiet contemplation, answered by what is called the Kākano, or seed pod.

The Kākano, a seed, is placed at the centre of the design as an expression of the whakatauki (proverb) of the Wānanga:

E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea. I will never be lost, the seed which was sown from Rangiāte

Constructing the Kakano pod | Inside the Kakano pod | Outside the Kakano pod

Project Challenges

The site is located within a flood plain, which meant the design needed to address issues of water run-off and overflow. The site has no access to stormwater pipes so the project dealt with stormwater with swales and wetlands designed by Wraight and Associates (WAAL).

The project uses precast concrete walls, with prefabricated Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) timber and steel structural members. The Kākano pod is the focal element of innovative construction and was developed as a separate project. While developing the pod was an interesting challenge, the construction and transport to site were the key risks.

Precast panels and LVL timber


Stanley Group manufactured the Kākano using a doubleskin dome structure of pine plywood (a low-carbon solution), for both inner and outer layers. The inner-layer panels were connected to form the shell structure, while the outer-layer panels were for acoustic performance and a visual skin.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) were used to design and accurately build the Kākano pod. The structural engineer, Dunning Thornton Consultants, created the drawings in CAD software and sent the files directly to Stanley Group’s Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) router to cut the plywood panels. No other drawings were required. This resulted in reduced mistakes and resulted in remarkable efficiency and accuracy.

It took three months to fabricate the 836 prefabricated plywood panels that make up the Kākano structure. The panels were screwed together with folded 1.2mm steel plates, which allowed for the disassembly and assembly during transportation and construction. Offsite manufacture offered quality control, time and cost efficiencies, and enabled the success of the project.

A prefabrication approach allowed multiple tasks to run in parallel, thus minimising construction time. Prebuilt structural elements and precast concrete were utilised for the overall build. The Kakano pod, however, was an experimental and custom fabrication.


The construction of Ngā Purapura was 75% complete when the Kākano was scheduled to be installed. The pod was assembled into two halves before it was transported to site overnight. Once at site the sections were moved into the building through the foyer by truck.

The experienced team of consultants together with the Kākano pod contractor Stanley Group and main contractor Fletcher Construction Company, all collaboratively worked towards the completion of Ngā Purapura. The Kākano contributes to the success of Ngā Purapura by offering a quiet space and intense meaning to the community who uses the facility.


Te Wānanga O Raukawa has reported that they are a very happy client group. The final building has received glowing reports and was awarded the NZIA Wellington Architecture Award 2013 for Education, and also received the Purple Pin Ngā Aho Best Award in 2012.

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