By the end of this year, Wellington's waterfront will be home to the poster pin-up of the new green building movement, otherwise known as environmentally sustainable design.
Last year, the corporate office of energy company Meridian began construction on the Kumutoto Site 7, north of Queens Wharf.
It has been touted as the first truly green building to be built in New Zealand.
Meridian signed up as tenants after developer Dominion Funds, Wellington Waterfront and Studio Pacific Architecture combined forces to create the concept for the building.
Meridian's project director, Shayne Gray, said they had researched the prospects for a new office when they realised they had outgrown their current accommodation, and looked into green-flavoured projects within New Zealand and offshore using eco-friendly criteria.
"Wellington Waterfront's Site 7 ended up being the preferred option. It had the best fit," he said. That fit came down to the innovative and ecologically responsible concepts incorporated in the design of the office building by Studio Pacific.
Encased in a double layer glass skin, the $29 million building would literally look after its own climate, opening and closing vents in the outer skin of double-glazed glass, and using the concrete building fabric to absorb heat and reduce daily fluctuations in temperature.
The double layer enhanced acoustics, heat loss, glare and air flow, and with main exterior walls made of glass, natural light is maximised and supplemented with automatically controlled light systems.
The combination of these features would enhance the building's overall performance, and result in 60 per cent less power use than a standard office building.
Additionally, a 10,000 litre tank on the roof would collect rainwater to be used through the building's toilet cisterns, and with low-flow taps and showers there would be a 70 per cent saving on water use.
Building materials would be mostly from recycled or sustainable sources. With Meridian's official mantra based on renewable energy, the green building movement was a natural progression.
"It's closely aligned with our brand, who we are and what we do.
"As a renewable energy company there was a little bit of us walking the talk in terms of our own accommodation," Mr Gray said.
ESD was being incorporated into new buildings throughout New Zealand in varying degrees, but also into retrofitting existing buildings, Studio Pacific architect Stephen McDougall said.
"If you see the operating costs, and you are taking 60 per cent less energy, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that's going to save some money."
Working with Statistics New Zealand on a people-friendly interior refit for its new building on Wellington's wharves had showed considerable gains in productivity, Mr McDougall said.
"Being able to adjust your lighting, to stand up and open your window, the mere fact that you can control your own environment – that does not happen in most office buildings.
"The productivity thing is crucial. If you have a 5 per cent increase in productivity, that's a huge amount on your bottom line."
Other Wellington buildings were getting a "green-up" too, with the $18 million MidCity conversion of old cinemas for the Conservation Department's head office incorporating chilled beams, movement- sensitive lighting, water reticulation and a double skin exterior.
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