A union in commercial and sustainable design

Blending commercial needs with sustainable building principles can prove very successful, as Peddle Thorp Architect's double win at the 2011 New Zealand Architecture Awards demonstrate. The firm won awards in both the Sustainability and Commercial categories, something it says shows a significant shift in thinking taking place in international commercial architecture. 

The win across both categories, it says, shows a significant shift in thinking taking place in international commercial architecture.  

Leading the design team on the project was architect Wade Jennings, who says the practice acknowledges both the opportunity and responsibility it has towards improving the economic and environmental performance of existing buildings.

“We are living in interesting times; globally there is a growing focus on preservation of energy supply as well as reducing carbon emissions and waste.  This is driven as much by economics as it is by a desire to preserve the future,” says Jennings. “With proposed carbon pricing measures potentially impacting energy costs, properties that use less will have a competitive advantage over their rivals.”  

Among the sustainable features of the 21 Queen Street property is double-glazing which has been designed to control solar heat gain while allowing vast amounts of daylight on to the working floors. The double-glazing also contributes to the acoustic quality of the office space by cutting out the street noise of a busy part of the city. 

“People are often surprised when we tell them that glass can be green,” says Jennings. “Careful attention to the ratio of insulated panels to clear glazing, as well as the use of high performance low-e coatings and, in some cases, different gases in the double-glazed units, can enable the rest of the building to work far more efficiently.”  

The double-glazing, along with the aluminium used in the build, can also be easily removed, recycled and reused, says Jennings.  

Existing buildings represent about 95 percent of urban building stock and with a growing international movement toward improving the environmental performance of these buildings, the firm believes the retrofitting and refurbishment of existing building stock can make instant energy and carbon savings while at the same time reactivating financially underperforming properties.  

“Rather than simply focus on new build projects we believe we can limit energy consumption by reusing existing structures specifically designed to restrict ongoing operational costs,” says Jennings.  

And as well as having obvious environmental benefits like reduced carbon emissions, Jennings says it also goes some ways to delivering “true bottom line benefits” to clients. 

In fact the massive potential of existing stock for retrofitting was a point much championed by Empire State Building owner, Anthony Malkin, when he recently spoke at the Green Property Summit in Auckland. In that speech, he emphasised that future energy efficiency gains to be made from the built environment of a city like Auckland are not going to come from new builds, no matter how highly they might rate in innovative architecture terms. Nor are the energy gains going to come from run-down residential stock. According to Malkin, they’re going to come from the existing commercial buildings known to be bulk energy users.

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