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Does your building have a hero’s cape?

Does your building have a hero’s cape?

All of our cities need to be identifying heroic buildings in their midst for the fight against climate change, says Stephen Olsen

This was the line taken this year by NZ Green Building Council for the annual WorldGreen Building Week, and in Wellington last night five buildings were singled out for their current or nascent hero status.

One of those buildings is the Athfield Architects designed PwC Centre planned for the Wellington waterfront.

According to Elzine Braasch of Aecom it’s a building that will bring a close match to Wellington City Council’s Smart City 2040 aspirations and go a long way to demonstrating what a zero carbon building future will need to feature – from excluding the use of typically harmful conventional materials through to optimal daylight harvesting.   

Patrick Arnold of building consultancy eCubed nominated four other heroic office buildings worth noting for key aspects of future-oriented design.

First in his shortlist was Newcrest’s almost completed development at 20 Customhouse Quay with a key aspect being the deployment of triangular steel framing – “triangles are strong!”

Through reducing the use of material by almost a quarter Arnold said this steel framing option saved the equivalent of 9.3 years of base building energy consumption.

Robert Jones’ plans for a medium-rise timber office building at 149 Featherston Street got a mention by Arnold, as did two state sector projects: Bowen Campus, currently under reconstruction, and the MBIE’s headquarters at 15 Stout Street.

To Arnold, the Stout Street project has been an important signifier that combating greenhouse gas emissions – a third of which are generated by buildings – has to have a focus on existing buildings and not just new builds.

As he put it “heroes don’t necessarily have to be new”.

World Green Building Week closes out tomorrow and has done its job for now of seeding a target of achieving net zero carbon buildings by 2050.

How we get there is a question we all need to ask.