Untapped opportunities await building owners up on the roof

Dirty Little Secret is a rooftop bar on top of Five Stags on the corner of Taranaki and Dixon streets.
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Dirty Little Secret is a rooftop bar on top of Five Stags on the corner of Taranaki and Dixon streets.

From beehives to bars, to green spaces, the roofs of many commercial and industrial buildings in New Zealand hold untapped potential for owners.

From Cape Reinga, to Bluff, building owners are starting to think about the space on top of their buildings, in an attempt to reap environmental benefits and gain another income stream from their properties.

In France, rooftops on new buildings built in commercial zones must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels. Numerous countries are starting to follow suit, including New Zealand.

Outdoor seating and barbecue area on the top of IAG's building in Auckland.
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Outdoor seating and barbecue area on the top of IAG's building in Auckland.

Internationally, green roofs are promoted through a combination of legal frameworks, financial grants and policy incentives with recent research in London confirming that living roofs, in particular, can benefit the whole life cost of a building.

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Bayleys national director commercial real estate John Church said while New Zealand lagged behind its European counterparts with regards green roofs and other environmentally-conscious installations, there were encouraging signs that building owners were waking up to the opportunities that exist up on the roof.

The largest rooftop bar in the world, 1-Altitude, sits on the roof of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Singapore.

The largest rooftop bar in the world, 1-Altitude, sits on the roof of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Singapore.

"The New Zealand building code now includes requirements for loadings on roofs and council plans are starting to acknowledge green roofs.

"There are many advantages being touted including air-conditioning and insulation benefits, energy savings, increasing the useable or marketable space on building roof tops and protection from ultra violet damage," he said.

"Bayleys has noted that the increased financial outlay at the construction phase can reap significant cost savings and provide sustainability benefits for building owners and tenants."

Sylvia Park site facilities manager Garth Dempsey, left, and Kiwi Property national facilities manager Jason Happy stand ...
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Sylvia Park site facilities manager Garth Dempsey, left, and Kiwi Property national facilities manager Jason Happy stand in front of New Zealand's largest solar array installation on top of the Sylvia Park retail centre in Auckland.

One of Auckland's most sustainably-designed buildings, the NZI Centre in Fanshawe St, boasts a 350 square metre living roof and rooftop staff area.

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The NZI Centre was the first commercial building in New Zealand to receive a 5-Green Star rating. It is planted with a variety of sedum and succulents, plus exotic ice plants for colour.

Rooftop bars are also becoming a big hit.

"From Hong Kong to Shanghai, Singapore to Cannes, the rooftop is where the happening people gather, and New Zealand is catching on to the trend," Church said.

Seven storeys above central Wellington is the Arborist roof top bar, which boasts funky seating options and, usually, a waiting list of patrons eager to perch up high.

The Aborist rooftop bar in Wellington.
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The Aborist rooftop bar in Wellington.

Other Wellington bar owners who have made use of the rooftop are Basque on Courtenay Pl and Dirty Little Secret on the corner of Dixon and Taranaki streets.

Arborist owner and operator Tracey Lear said visits to rooftop bars in Melbourne and other international cities, encouraged her to test the idea in the capital.

"Windy Wellington throws weather challenges into the mix, however, we're sheltered from the nor-westerly which hits waterfront bars on nice days.

A green roof on top of Mt Difficulty's winery in Central Otago.
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A green roof on top of Mt Difficulty's winery in Central Otago.

"We'll copy New York's lead and provide heaters, hot water bottles and blankets when it's cold and will close on rainy days."

The buzzing rooftop scene also inspired Auckland design house Designworks to install two beehives with 60,000 honeybees on the rooftops of its heritage building campus in the CBD, joining a growing global movement of urban beekeeping.

"[Beekeeper Angus Willison] takes care of the bees and while our landlord was initially a little reluctant, after some perseverance on our part and extensive consultation with Auckland Council, he's since become an advocate for the concept," Designworks group head of spatial design Clark Pritchard said.

Willison, of Over the Hill Hive and Honey, said the bees took some time to get established due to city noise and vibrations.

"But with a clear flight path to inner city Albert Park, they've settled in well."

In Christchurch Ballantynes department store, Ara Institute of Canterbury and cafe C1 Espresso have all had bee hives on their rooftops. Ballantynes sells its honey under the Ballantynes Rooftop Bees brand. 

As part of Novotel Queenstown Lakeside's multi-layered commitment to sustainable hospitality, the hotel had a number of beehives on its roof to help increase the local bee population.

Auckland Council's place activations team is currently investigating how rooftops can be used in the city by introducing and supporting local beehives aiming to turn Auckland into the safest city in the world for bees.

New Zealand's largest solar array installation - equivalent in size to 12 tennis courts - can be found on top of the Sylvia Park retail centre in Mt Wellington in Auckland.

The 3000sqm, 1134 panel installation has exceeded all expectations. The building is owned by NZX-listed Kiwi Property.

The electricity produced had provided almost 20 per cent of Sylvia Park's base building energy needs, since the array was installed 14 months ago, Church said.

Kiwi Property national facilities manager Jason Happy said: "We've reduced our annual carbon emissions from the centre by 65 tonnes, and produced over 500,000kWh of electricity since the array was switched on," 

"Some of the energy produced from the solar cells also goes to Sylvia Park's free electric car charging stations which fits nicely with Kiwi Property's sustainability principles."

Long-term energy efficiency and innovative technology are also core components of Mt Difficulty's commitment to tread lightly on the environment.

The Central Otago winery is housed in an exposed pre-cast panel building, which is buried back into the hillside with a vegetated living roof covering the entire 900sqm upper footprint to keep heating and cooling costs down.

The living roof was designed for biodiversity, evaporative cooling, heat retention and aesthetic enhancement of the barrel store roof for the Mt Difficulty Restaurant and tasting rooms above.

At the time of completion, the roof was the largest single extensive living roof in New Zealand.

 - Stuff

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