Setting the scene for green building

Setting the scene for green building

connal townsend alex cutler nz green propery summit 2013

Those listening closely at this week’s Green Property Summit in Auckland would have picked up on a growing desire to accelerate the pace of change, complementing New Zealand’s maturing acceptance of what can be achieved by scaling up green building developments.

 Alex Cutler, of the NZ Green Building Council, set the scene with her opening words that sustainability may have been slipping off the radar, and that asserting its relevance is a continous job – not aided by persistent misconceptions of the costs of creating a greener built environment, in the face of solid evidence of proven long-term savings and returns on investment verified by the IPD Green Property Index.

 In a similar vein, Property Council head Connal Townsend expressed the view that “if New Zealand is to come back stronger than ever, investment in sustainability needs to happen”.

 The two key movers behind the summit (pictured above), backed by new principal sponsor BLS Ecofluro, were unified in their stance that it’s time for green building development to move beyond a single building at a time approach through the types of initiative taking place in Australia such as Green Star Communities and to avoid falling into a ‘green comfort zone’.

 Another big question lurking in the room was the extent to which buildings deemed to be earthquake prone can, or must, be built using sustainable methodologies and technologies as well as meeting Building Code standards. Fortunately, on both fronts there were speakers able to offer words of encouragement.

 From Oregon, property developer Wade Lange spoke of the movement he is helping to lead towards EcoDistricts in his native city of Portland.

 From San Francisco, architect David Hobstetter offered up 525 Golden Gate  as a shining exemplar of an office building that sets new standards in both sustainability and seismicity – using concrete technology traceable to Kiwi know-how of the pioneering kind being pursued at the newly constituted Canterbury University Quake Centre.

 Closer to home, Shane Brealey of NZ Strong presented two compelling cases of new schools built to Green Star standards for the Ministry of Education.  In meeting the standards and gaining the required number of points, both projects came in well under budget. The projects also highlighted areas where better alignment could be achieved between the needs of all project partners, with room for doing more to take New Zealand conditions into account such as water, weather variables and climate resilience.

At a different level the summit then heard from Ivan Mercep of Jasmax and Tamati Kruger of Tuhoe about the Living Building Challenge that Tuhoe has taken on as the building of a new headquarters for the tribe takes shape at Taneatua. 

 Finally, Townsend summarised some of the challenges and opportunities in New Zealand, from the point of view of the last demolitions happening in Christchurch through to the exciting frontiers contained in Auckland’s recently released Unitary Plan. Joined earlier by Bruce Chapman, the head of the NZ Historic Places Trust, Townsend shared the view that a hard-nosed process will need to be applied in New Zealand on issues such as finding a common ground between heritage, sustainability and cost.