How sustainable is a six-green-star-rated building?

Kiwibank has officially moved into its new Auckland home – a building with a Six Green Star Certification near Wynyard Quarter. Michael Andrew went to see how sustainable a building has to be to earn so many stars.

In late 2019, when fans at Eden Park were sipping away at Sprite, Coke and L&P while watching a cricket match, they would’ve never foreseen that the following year those plastic bottles would be sitting 40 metres above downtown Auckland.

But when you walk along Fanshawe St or across Victoria Park toward the city and look up at Kiwibank’s new home in a six-green-star-rated office building, 11,136 plastic bottles is exactly what you’ll see.

Not individually of course; they’ve been integrated and woven into a large, one-of-a-kind, LED-backlit sign sitting at the top of the building. Starting with Tangaroa College students collecting bottles from Eden Park, the sign took almost a year to craft and was designed to showcase what waste could be turned into with the right kind of ingenuity. According to the lead designer, Danielle Barclay from 99, Kiwibank was looking for a unique piece of signage that reflected the sustainability aspects of the new building.

“We thought this was potentially a great opportunity to not just talk about the importance of sustainability, but actually showcase how you can fundamentally create beauty from waste,” she says. “It was a really bold idea because we had not been able to find a precedent for this anywhere in the world. I think we can safely say it’s definitely never been done in New Zealand.”

Kiwibank’s sign in construction (Photo: Supplied)

Although the sign contains 2,217 LEDs that illuminate the bottles at night, it uses only 1596.24 watts – about the same as an average household vacuum cleaner. Barclay says everything about the sign, from its recycled build to its low energy use, embodies the sustainable ethos of the building on which it now sits.

To the public, a building’s low energy or sustainability features typically aren’t all that conspicuous. Apart from the sign, there is little on the facade that sets it apart from other buildings. So what exactly makes it so sustainable?

First of all, it’s one of only eight office buildings in New Zealand to have been awarded six green stars by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) – the highest rating available. This takes into account the sustainable use of materials, how the building uses energy and water, access to sustainable transport, and the quality of the indoor environment.

It is owned by Mansons TCLM and designed by architecture firm Architectus. According to Sam Archer, director of market transformation at NZGBC, Kiwbank’s new building – named Te Kupenga – is a huge asset to Auckland’s skyline and will help ensure a healthy and efficient workplace for staff.

“The design for this building included rapid electric car charging points for staff and visitors, ventilation controlled by carbon dioxide sensors, and efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems,” he says.

“Plus the glass is a specific high-performance double glazing to help reduce the need for heating and cooling throughout the year.”

With Auckland still in the grips of a drought, one of the building’s most critical features is its rainwater harvesting system, which can capture and store up to 55,000 litres of rain water from the roof to be used in all the toilets and gardens. Much of the furniture was brought over from previous offices and the construction used low-impact steel and concrete and responsibly sourced timber. With 184 square metres of solar panels installed on the roof, the building is designed to use 40% less power than an average office building.

There are 108 solar panels on the building’s roof (Photo: Michael Andrew)

All this information is available for everyone to see as soon as they walk into the lobby. Next to the elevators is a digital information board that displays the live performance metrics of the building, including how much power has been used and saved up until that moment.

Archer said this unique feature earned the building a bonus point in its rating.

“We also gave credit for innovative steps to educate tenants and visitors about green building with the design, including a screen in the reception to display energy and water use, and information about the remediation of contaminated land.”

So does the look and feel inside the building actually back up the data? Kiwibank’s office on the third floor is certainly an impressive working space. Mostly open plan, it has a 360-degree outlook around Wynyard Quarter and Freemans Bay. The main glass facade overlooks the verdant London plane trees of Victoria Park, and the green and brown colour scheme and unique artwork in the office evoke native flora.

Other than Kiwibank, the building is home to TradeMe, Southern Cross Insurance and Genesis Energy, each with their own floor. In the basement car park are fleets of e-bikes and EVs alongside dozens of electric charging points – testimony to the building’s commitment to renewable transport.

Although the building is in the final stages of completion and teams moved in only in late October, Kiwibank’s head of sustainability Julia Jackson says every aspect has been designed to help people feel good when they’re there.

“We know that connection to nature is very important to mental wellbeing. Even the fact that we’ve used low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, and more environmentally friendly construction materials; you don’t necessarily notice them but the air is generally fresher and it’s a nicer environment to be working in.”

“The amount of light that’s coming in – all of that is very important as part of a green star building, because you’re trying to utilise as much of the natural parts as you can.”

Kiwibank’s office and break area (Photo: Michael Andrew)

Of course, the main benefit of a new building like this is having everything designed bespoke, rather than adapting an existing building. Jackson says starting a building from scratch makes it easier to optimise sustainability goals while creating the best possible working environment for staff.

“As a bank we have committed to reducing our electricity use by 60% by 2022. The way in which this building is designed meets the highest efficiency standards and makes reaching our target much more achievable.

“That was not going to be possible where we were. Now we are moved in, I’m looking forward to supporting our team to continue on this journey to be a better and more sustainable organisation.”

This content was created in paid partnership with the Kiwibank. Learn more about our partnerships here




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