Green building designs more popular

KASHKA TUNSTALL
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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The Waikato commercial property sector is moving more towards a clean, green, tidy building approach, according to industry experts.

McConnell Property development manager Aidan Donnelly said the industry was becoming greener as more companies recognised the opportunities in sustainable building.

"I think it's fair to say there's an increase in understanding in having new, more considered designs," Donnelly said.

The McConnell Group, which is building the Citygate office building in Hamilton's central city, is part of the New Zealand Green Building Council and has commitments towards sustainability, he said.

The Citygate development will be certified with a green-star rating from the Green Building Council when it is completed.

Large corporates are interested in creating a more sustainable approach overall, but while Kiwi companies were coming around to putting a premium on green-design elements, there were still improvements to be made in adopting green technology, Donnelly said,

"There's always further work to be done as there's an increasing focus on safety and efficiency . . . technology advances for that are always developing."

The big pushes for the next five years would most likely centre around further energy efficiency and reusing resources such as water, Donnelly said.

There was also a move towards greater comfort in office environments with double glazing of windows and more sophisticated air-conditioning systems.

It can be costly, but in the long run it proves to be more economically viable, he said.

"And I think in office buildings it starts in the initial design and there's a more robust design protocol because of it."

Brian Squair, director of Hamilton design company Chow Hill, said two significant trends in sustainability were coming through in Waikato-commissioned design plans.

The first was the growing demand for sustainable features from the inception of design rather than as additions at the end of the planning phase.

"We're designing from the very beginning of a sketch plan, more commonly thinking about how a building can be designed better sustainably," he said.

"Once upon a time, three or four years ago, a commercial developer or building owner or client would really chew over sustainable designs because it was a premium cost and they weren't necessarily interested in the long-term lifecycle benefits."

Clients were more interested in construction, leasing and moving on, he said.

But that has changed and the majority of clients are demanding green features from the get-go.

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"They see the demand is for sustainable design features and tenants want it too . . . tenants see the benefits for staff retention with fewer sick days and more productivity in the workplace with better office spaces," Squair said.

The second trend Chow Hill has come across is a move away from hi-tech, "gimmicky" electronic designs and towards principles of passive sustainable design. The most common design elements Waikato clients are requesting are passive ventilation with supplementary mechanical air-conditioning, maximisation of natural light and reusing water, Squair said.

At the design phase, new elements that are becoming popular are photovoltaic panelling and solar panelling for energy generation.

Donnelly said that for smaller operations and buildings, going the green route may not be the right focus but for larger corporates with industry commitments to sustainability, it was necessary.

And while some in the industry argue that being economically viable should take precedence over sustainability, Donnelly said the two aspects needed to be balanced.

"People contributing to the overall success of the community need to take a balanced view."

It is a combined approach looking at sustainable, economic, community and social relevance of a space, Donnelly said.

- Waikato Times

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