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The new Dowse - innovation from the ground up

Wednesday, 1 March, 2006

The new Dowse - innovation from the ground up

The new Dowse, scheduled to re-open in February 2007, will be a showcase for creativity and innovation both on, and under, the gallery floors and within the structure of the building itself.

Award-winning Athfield Architects and engineers Sinclair Knight Merz, have developed an integrated energy-efficient design that incorporates a natural rock-store underfloor cooling and heating system. In the coming weeks, this layer of small pebble-like rocks which works by circulating naturally cooled air, will be laid between the foundations and floor of the Dowse café. This innovative approach will reduce the energy needed for heating and air conditioning in the new upper floor galleries of the building.

Engineer Paul James of SKM says "The rock store is a good opportunity to combine the use of natural products and utilise the daily variation in temperature to exploit the potential free cooling. In doing so the new Dowse is contributing to the development of sustainable building design in New Zealand." The rock store works by drawing air into the building through the rocks, which moderate the temperature and thereby lower the costs of heating and cooling the air to maintain a world-class museum environment.

Director of The Dowse Tim Walker says the decision to use this method arose from the genuinely creative team culture that has developed between the client, architects, and engineers. "The new Dowse will be a showcase of the many ways in which creativity is transforming our lives and our world. It has been important that the building itself is a shining example of this".

"Inevitably cost is a major driver on any project like this. A refreshing lateral approach has resulted in this innovative way of incorporating temperature control into the building's fabric and thus reducing the energy consumption, and consequently the running costs, of the gallery and café areas of the new building".

The rock store approach has been made possible by a grant from The Hutt Mana Charitable Trust. Chair Trust, Roger Styles, says "the project shows what's possible if architects and engineers think hard about energy efficiency from the outset. As such, it's something we are happy to support as part of our programme of changing people's attitudes to energy". As part of the partnership The Trust will work with The Dowse over the next five years to showcase stories of innovative energy efficient initiatives.


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