Transforming Kainga Ora Riccarton Rd: Innovative Design Solutions

Discover the design breakthroughs that turned a multi-residential project in Riccarton, Christchurch into a safe and stunning architectural masterpiece.


In the heart of Riccarton, Christchurch, the Kainga Ora Riccarton Rd Project was poised to revolutionize multi-residential living. With 15 one-bedroom units and 5 one-bedroom units with carer facilities, this three-story project held the promise of redefining the local landscape. This case study delves into the intricacies and innovations that underpinned this remarkable transformation.

The Challenge: A Stair Balustrade Makeover

The project came with its fair share of challenges. Notably, recesses for baseplate locations had already been carved into the concrete floor slab, requiring a design that could harmonize with these pre-existing conditions.

Designing the Balustrade

Canterbury Balustrades conceptualized a distinctive 'suspended' baluster infill panel design, which is supported by spacers and suspended from upright posts. The infill panels themselves were meticulously crafted using UNEX's Finline slat and top rail sections, featuring 40mm slats and 50mm top and bottom rails.

To ensure a sturdy connection, the end slats of each infill were reinforced with solid Fin sections. The posts utilized adhered to the standard 50mm square columns, complemented by Leada handrail standoffs on top and a standard LRR handrail. The UNEX design team brought this vision to life.

Complex Factors Addressed

  • Spacer Width Constraints:
    An important challenge involved ensuring that the 40mm diameter spacers supporting the infill panels did not exceed 36mm in width. This strict constraint was mandated by the New Zealand Building Code (NZBC) F4/AS1 to prevent wider spacers, which could pose safety concerns.
  • Varied Panel Spans:
    The balustrade panels were constrained by differing spans, dictated by the pre-existing post locations. This presented a complex problem: determining the connection points for the infill support spacers while upholding a consistent rail line.
  • Handrail Height Transition:
    An essential design element entailed achieving a seamless transition of handrail height, transitioning from 900mm above the steps to 1100mm at the landing on top of the stairs. This transition had to not only serve its function but also possess aesthetic appeal.
  • Accessibility Requirements:
    Categorizing the stairway as "Accessible" necessitated strict compliance with NZBC D1/AS1 requirements. Meeting these criteria added an extra layer of complexity as the balustrades had to provide secure and accessible support for all residents and visitors.

Innovative Solutions Implemented

UNEX Systems rose to the challenge by deploying a blend of innovative design solutions and meticulous planning:

  • Spacer Optimization:
    A combination of precise design and manufacturing was instrumental in producing spacers that adhered to the strict width constraints while preserving structural integrity.
  • Customized Panel Spans:
    A tailored approach was embraced for each panel. This entailed careful consideration of the pre-existing post locations to ensure the strategic placement of infill support spacers without compromising the uniform rail line.
  • Handrail Transition:
    The challenge of transitioning handrail height was overcome through meticulous calculations. This yielded a seamless slope and design adjustments that satisfied both safety and aesthetic criteria.
  • Accessibility Compliance:
    The team scrutinized and enacted necessary modifications to ensure compliance with NZBC D1/AS1 requirements, effectively meeting accessibility standards.

Fabrication and Installation

Canterbury Balustrades, an authorized UNEX installer in Christchurch, assumed responsibility for fabrication and installation. For further insights into Canterbury Balustrades and their impressive work, visit their website.

Notable products utilized include Bespoke Accessible Stairway Balustrades and Finline Balustrade for decks.


The Kainga Ora Riccarton Rd Project is a testament to UNEX's adeptness in confronting intricate challenges head-on. Through meticulous planning, innovative design solutions, and an unwavering commitment to adhering to stringent building code requirements, UNEX and Canterbury Balustrades achieved a successful transformation of this multi-residential complex into a secure, functional, and aesthetically pleasing space. This case study underscores the significance of attention to detail and adaptability in the face of complex architectural challenges.

Please Note: Some PS1 specifications are currently being updated and are not available for download.

Please contact us for assistance at tech@unex.co.nz.

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