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Restoration of Ironside House

Harley Builders are proud to have been involved in the restoration of Ironside House after the earthquakes. Pleased to see the owners got a Heritage award.

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Heritage Retention Award:

Winner – Ironside House

Entrant: H&H Developments

Judge Citation: The restoration of Ironside House has not just brought a prominent heritage building back to life but has been done to ensure long term sustainability as well as reinstating the heritage features of the house.

The Judges’ congratulate the owners for sensitively bringing a severely damaged building back to full use and achieving 100 percent of the new building code. This project involved carefully moving the building backwards off its original site (after removal of damaged materials) and moving it back again after constructing 200 piles driven to 7 metres and installing a 100mm concrete subfloor as well as new bearers and bracing. The work achieved on Ironside House shows that with care, innovation and determination heritage buildings can be rehabilitated and strengthened to be enjoyed long into the future.


Restored to Glory

Ironside House, proudly shows that restoration on the heritage building is complete. High-profile chef Jonny Schwass’s latest culinary venture in Christchurch will offer a slice of history too. His new restaurant, Harlequin Public House, will soon open in Ironside House, a more than century-old building on the corner of Salisbury and Montreal streets. The building’s owners restored it to its former glory despite it being severely damaged in the February 2011 earthquake and being red-stickered.

Co-owner Jacqui Lee said that when she saw the building after the devastating quake she thought, “How the hell are we going to fix this?” But she took the approach of “where there is a will there is a way”.

Saving the building, built in 1899, did not come cheap. The salvage project, which involved lifting and moving the house on to the nearby car park so workers could put down deep-pile foundations, “conservatively” cost about $2.5 million, she said. The bill was covered through a combination of insurance, a Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Building Trust grant and a bank loan. Lee hoped a council grant would be confirmed.


Schwass said they hoped to open after July 20. “We’re pretty lucky to be the custodians of such a beautiful building. They’re definitely not making them like that any more.”

He said the restaurant and bar would be europena 1920s-style, with a few “familiar faces” from his now-demolished Ferry Rd Restaurant Schwass.

Ironside House was once home to a surgery and later a lecture hall for the Christchurch Teachers’ College.

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West Melton Straw Bale House

Neil and Lindsey Hardisty: West Melton Straw Bale House. June 2016

We came across Harley Builders via Cob House and were recommended by Sven and Sarah from Sol Natural Design.

From the outset we felt we would get on well with Glenn and his team and we were impressed when we first met them. Planning delays meant that we could only start making our cob/straw bales in the winter and Glenn’s team were right there with us in knee-deep mud. Not once did we hear or feel that this was a problem!

We thoroughly enjoyed working with Glenn and his team. Glenn was fastidious around the work site and demanded his team were the same. This was particularly hard with the team working around mud most of the time! We  were totally impressed with how Harley Builders fitted their work around our schedule and accommodated us.

We had wanted to create a calm and welcoming environment with a strong sense of home. We chose deep walls, traditional materials and timber saved from the Christchurch earthquakes, to achieve a feel similar to that of an arts and crafts villa, rich with timber detail. We conceptualised the house design and we wanted to do the straw bale work ourselves. We spent a lot of time gathering up the resources and then tying all the timber into a theme for the house.

Glenn bought into this right from the outset and worked hard to make this happen. He quickly understood what we were trying to achieve and embraced our enthusiasm. It was a ‘jigsaw’ build so there were a lot more challenges than a ‘normal’ build. He treated the build as his own until he handed it over. This alone was the key to a very successful and enjoyable build!

Glenn worked with our architect throughout the design process, making a significant contribution to the final design. He introduced us to specialist craftsmen for our deep window seats and custom/reclaimed rimu kitchen, and also worked with Sarah and Sven of Sol Design, who provided the clay plaster specifications and taught us that building in straw can be fun.

Glenn was extremely accommodating with design changes and there were many along the way. Particularly around where certain windows and doors would go.

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We are grateful to the whole team at Harley Builders who worked consistently to overcome the challenges of re-using salvaged antique architectural materials. The end result has been easily worth it. The house is very special to us and from woe-to-go the build exceeded almost all of our expectations. We were delighted to work with a builder of such integrity and passion for quality.

The house is now 2 years old and everything has performed as expected. It has been built to use the sun for heating including a polished concrete floor in the living areas. The sleeping wing of the house is not straw bale but has been built with extra insulation so that the house is warm and keeps a constant temperature. Even though there is heating in the floor and we do have a log burner, the heating hardly ever goes on.

Straw bale thermal efficiency comes from an R-value of 9, far greater than standard fibre insulation’s R value of 1.8 or any other construction method. These types of properties keep you warm in winter and cool and comfortable in summer with no wasted energy. The natural building material of straw bale has a low environmental impact and is non-toxic which is ideal for those with respiratory challenges.

Glenn has a big heart and enormous strength. He is an impressive person, honourable and transparent, reliable and predictable. He has achieved an amazing result for us and we would love to work with him again one day. We thoroughly appreciate that Glenn turned our drawings into reality and made a home for us we dreamed of.

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Ironside House Restoration

Ironside House was extensively damaged in the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. We thought at the time: “How the hell are we going to fix this?” But we took the approach of “where there is a will there is a way”. It is listed as a Group 4 protected heritage building in the Christchurch City Plan so a repair was decided on and from there, we began a long journey with Harley Builders to restore the building to its former glory.

We were looking for a builder who was sympathetic to heritage work and who could share our vision of restoring Ironside House back to the original. We’re pleased that right from the start, Glenn and his team at Harley Builders bought into that vision.

The whole project lasted 3 years, which included bracing and moving the building backwards off its original site (after removal of damaged materials) and moving it back again after fixing the piles.

We got along extremely well with Glenn and he really enjoyed the challenge of the restoration work, which at times was a very big challenge indeed! The project was a continual moving feast and many unexpected things cropped up as you can imagine with a building of that age and the damage caused by the earthquakes. So not only was Glenn flexible in his approach, but was always very obliging and enthusiastic.

At the time we were dealing with Insurance companies and trying to secure Heritage grants for the repair, so it was a frustrating but rewarding project. Glenn was sympathetic to the timeframes and challenges along the way.

He helped as much as he could and we remember that in the early days – when the red zone cordon was in place – he came and shored up the house which had been red stickered and was leaning into Montreal Street. Basically the house would have been demolished without the work Glenn did then!


Glenn worked exceptionally well with the architect and other professionals that were involved in the project. He always had our best interests at heart.

We were particularly pleased with the quality of finishing from Glenn and his team. We were not prepared to compromise and were always focussed on restoring everything back to the original. Glenn bought into that concept and accommodated our requests where he could. He provided the right people to do it the right way. His sub-contractors were great and all seemed to work in well.

Jeremy, our son, worked on the project full time and he enjoyed working with Glenn and his team. It was always a tidy, well organised work site and it had a good atmosphere. Everyone seem to get along and often they would share a joke or two.
After having started the repairs we suffered more cracks and splits from the December earthquake. We remember saying to Glenn “How the hell are we going to fix that?” He simply said “Don’t worry, we will”. And he did!

The House has achieved some significant awards:

2012 Heritage Retention Award – Highly Commended

2013 Civic Trust Award

2014 Heritage Retention Award Winner