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PM Opens Unique ‘Green’ Science Building

Unique ‘green’ science building to open

Landcare Research’s new state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly science building will be officially opened by the Prime Minister this morning.

Landcare Research has relocated its Auckland base from Mt Albert to the University of Auckland’s Tamaki campus, to enhance linkages between the two organisations. Its new facility has been purpose-built to house 100 staff from both Landcare Research and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as University guests. It also houses millions of insects and thousands of fungi and bacteria within Landcare Research’s nationally significant collections.

Landcare Research Operations Manager Dr Maggie Lawton says the building was designed to look relatively conventional, but set a strong example of how choice of materials and thoughtful design can save costs and protect the environment.

“The building has very low electricity usage, and makes minimal use of Auckland’s water, stormwater and sewage systems,” Dr Lawton says.

“Construction costs were about the same as a regular building, but electricity costs are projected to be two-thirds lower. That’s despite the high energy requirements of keeping the collections at a constant temperature and low humidity, and maintaining energy-hungry laboratory equipment. Electricity savings of up to $70,000 per year are expected.”

The building is designed with a mix of high mass, insulation and shading, which minimises heat transfer between the inside and exterior.

Chow Hill architects and Connell Mott MacDonald engineers worked with Landcare Research to develop energy and water systems that mimic processes in the natural world, with waste from one system usefully feeding another.

“Solar heated water is used in hand basins and the cafeteria and waste heat from freezers and refrigerators is used to warm offices,” Dr Lawton says.

“The building catches rainwater from the roof, and will detain about 75,000 litres in storage tanks at any one time.

“The rainwater irrigates our glasshouses and gardens and flushes the urinals and low-water-use toilets on the ground floor. Waterless composting toilets are installed on upper floors.”

Special gardens and soak holes are being developed to minimise runoff into Auckland’s stormwater system. Even the car park is pervious, and water (plus any contaminants) soaks in where it falls and is filtered through soils before it reaches groundwater.

Environmentally sustainable building materials were chosen. “We used untreated cedar from certified plantations, pine veneer, and water-based acrylic paint wherever possible. Our carpet tiles are made largely of recycled post-industrial waste, and any worn areas can easily be replaced. Other floor surfaces are covered in an environmentally friendly alternative to vinyl called Marmoleum®, or are left as exposed concrete, which contributes to the building’s thermal mass.”

Dr Lawton says given Landcare Research’s focus on low impact urban design and sustainable management of resources, the aim for the new building was to lead by example.

“We wanted to prove that a ‘green’ building can be constructed at comparable cost to an ordinary building, and deliver specialist science needs for much reduced operational costs.

“We want it to set an example for other commercial buildings, and inspire other firms to consider sustainable approaches when they next build.”

The new Tamaki building will be the subject of ongoing study by University of Auckland architecture and engineering students, who will monitor its performance.

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