In collaboration with Smith Architects and Establish, Chester Consultants provided the civil engineering input on this now-operational early learning centre located in Dairy Flat, Auckland.

Set on over 3½ hectares, amongst paddocks and streams, Fantails Estate is a new archetype for Early Childhood in New Zealand – the owner’s vision was a ‘luxury lodge’ for children.

In keeping with the concept, the building is broken into six individual blocks fanned out around a geometric timber canopy. Blocks 1-5 are classrooms for different age groups and block 6 is a staff block including kitchen and laundry facilities and administrative spaces.

Each classroom has a north-facing outlook of the large playground and countryside setting, with the playground providing children with seven times the minimum area for outdoor play. Full-height, low-E coated glazed sliding doors create seamless indoor-outdoor flow while framing views out to the playground and surrounding paddocks. Deep canopies and covered art benches create sheltered all-weather areas that allow children to play outside in any weather and keep the building naturally ventilated for most of the year.

Internally, each classroom has been designed to provide children with an intimate learning environment, featuring facilities that cater to the unique needs of each age group. Custom-designed cabinetry and play equipment ensure every space has been well-considered, creating a cohesive feel that carries through from the overall architectural form of the building.

Classrooms all face out to a natural playscape with sandpits, grassy climbing mounds, and natural wooden climbing frames. The playground slopes down to a small stream that has been regenerated and realigned with native flax and other planting to filter water that runs off from the site. Additional native planting is dotted around the playground to create shaded grassy play areas.

Sustainable features are woven throughout the design. Each block is sized so that daylighting and natural ventilation provide the most optimal internal environment quality, whilst rainwater is collected on-site to provide all the buildings water supply, with blackwater also captured and treated on-site – the site imports no water and releases no wastewater. The building is oriented to face north for solar gains in winter, while canopies provide shade from the higher summer sun.

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Fantails Childcare Estate Project | Chester Consultants

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Fantails Estate Early Learning Centre

About the

Chester Consultants is a 100% NZ-owned, multi-disciplinary consultancy founded in 1985 by Gary Chester. 

The team has since grown to 50+ specialist consultants including surveyors; civil, structural, and fire engineers; planners; project managers; and technical staff - offering an extensive range of professional services throughout New Zealand and the wider Pacific region.

The core of everything we do is People and Outcomes. We orient all aspects of our work around our clients and have built systems and strategies that make sure our clients’ needs are kept front and centre. This is why our defining statement is Positive People, Positive Outcomes. We work hard to deliver the best possible result for each client’s unique requirements and intentions.

Our team, our people, and our culture are instrumental in achieving the longevity and successes Chester enjoys. Through our engaged, high-performing team, we deliver excellent outcomes both inside and outside the Chester team. With over 35 years of operation and the deep collective experience of our team, we have the skills, experience, resources, and track record to give our clients confidence that their projects will be a success.