NZ’s first Living Building to be ready by the end of the year

NZ’s first Living Building to be ready by the end of the year

Construction is in full-swing at the future headquarters of the eastern North Island iwi Tūhoe, Te Uru Taumatua, set to become New Zealand’s first Living Building.

Work is now almost halfway through and the team has stepped up the pace to make sure the end-of-the-year deadline is met.

When finished, Te Uru Taumatua will be NEw Zealand’s first Living Building, the most environmentally and socially sustainable building in the country. It will be triple net zero (energy, water, waste) and employ the most sustainable materials available.

“This building reflects Tūhoe’s hopes for its own and for New Zealand’s future. Like Tūhoe, it challenges the way things have been done and puts a mark in the ground for the possibilities of the future,” says Tamati Kruger, chairman of Tūhoe.

“We are now halfway through the build and it’s not only meeting all our objectives to incorporate everything that’s important to Tūhoe and the objectives of the Living Building Challenge, it is surpassing them.”

Kruger says the tribe has been focusing on making sure the building meets his targets, “even as we are working to conclude our settlement with the Crown”.  

Wood for the building is being sourced from Tūhoe’s own forests, but under the terms of the Living Building requirements native timbers couldn’t be newly harvested, unless they came from a forest approved y the Forestry Stewardship Council. For that reason, the team has had to source down-and-dead timbers to use, so a staff member spent two weeks in the Te Ureweras, sourcing accessible timber.

Additionally, 5000 earth bricks are being used to create internal walls that will regulate the moisture and temperature within the building. Those bricks are hand moulded and ten local Tūhoe people were trained in the art of earthbrick making and hired for three weeks to train and monitor over 150 volunteers to produce the required number of bricks.

It is also planned that local schools will help to propagate native plants that will be used for landscaping and the building’s new edible garden.

“Right from the beginning, Tūhoe has encouraged all involved to push the boundaries and do things differently,” says the project’s manager Jeff Vivian from Arrow. “It’s exciting, but pretty testing too. We have a dedicated person on site whose main role is to help contractors adapt to this new way of thinking; to analyse everything they do, to reject materials that are not sustainable and find better alternatives they can use,” he adds.

The solar panels will be fitted next month, in what will be the largest photovoltaic installation in the country. They will also be used to heat the unique hot water system. The roof is currently being fitted and the earth bricks are about to be installed. Tamati Kruger has selected seven artists from across the county to produce art works suitable for the new building and reflect Tūhoe’s hopes and aspirations for the building.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).