Akutina Matthews subcontracts as a carpenter on The Hotel Britomart. He says the view from the top is a daily highlight.
Carpenter Akutina Matthews has worked on The Hotel Britomart from the ground floor up, including in the restoration of the neighbouring heritage buildings that are also part of the project. “It’s been pretty interesting,” he says. “We found a lot of old treasures on the site. Artefacts, bottles, horseshoes. Old newspapers that they used to pack the walls before they put the mortar in. Pretty cool. I think the oldest one we found was from the 1950s.”
The Britomart precinct in downtown Auckland has become a second home for Aku. He’s subcontracted as a carpenter to Bracewell Construction, who are building the hotel, for the last three jobs they’ve done here – including the fit-out of award-winning restaurant Amano – and enjoys being able to work on both the new and heritage buildings of the neighbourhood.
“It’s cool working in the city,” he says.” There’s heaps of stuff going on around here in the square.” He means Takutai Square, the central crossroads of Britomart, where the site foreman Glenn buys the crew mussel fritters for lunch at the Saturday farmer’s market every weekend.
Working in the mid-levels, the crew is small and well-practised. It takes just three weeks to get the exterior walls of each level up. “It’s a little repetitive but we’re getting better and better as we go,” says Aku. “We started out taking four weeks to go up a floor, but we can do it in under three weeks with less guys now. You just look at the end goal and that’s the exciting thing, racing your way up to the top.”
The team has been building to rigorous ‘5 Green Star’ environmental standards, which has meant trying out new construction systems. A new formwork system by Peri has helped speed up progress and minimise waste. “Usually we build timber shutters and then pour concrete in the middle,” Aku says. “By the time you strip the timber off the concrete, it’s damaged and you end up chucking it in the bin. With this system, you can reuse the shutters over and over. It cost a lot, but at the end of the job, you’ve saved a lot of waste and materials, and you get to use it for the next job.”
As the crew works towards the top floor, with the interior fit-out crew chasing them up through the levels, Aku says the hardest part of the job is probably “just walking the scaffold every day to get up. I think we’re gonna make it to the top before they get us an elevator,” he jokes. The view makes the walk worthwhile though. “Every level, it’s like, ‘Sweet – nobody’s ever seen this view from this level before'. That’s fun.”