Victoria University of Wellington aims to create one of the most environmentally friendly buildings in the world.
Upon completion, students will be able to walk around the green, wooden three-story Living PÄ complex and watch monitors showing its energy and water usage – a ‘living’ building in real time.
Glass panels will connect it to the university’s wharenui, Te Tumu Herenga Waka, which has been held at Kelburn Parade for 35 years.
This week, the university committed $ 45 million to the building, but a lot of work remains to be done on this ambitious project.
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As part of the Living Building Challenge, it will be assessed against the highest sustainability score in the world.
This means it must generate all of its own energy, use its own water systems, be completely carbon neutral, and use non-toxic materials.
It must also prove, one year after its completion, that it is as durable as it claims to be – and will be verified by an auditor to officially certify it.
Only 30 other buildings in the world meet this rank, including TÅ«hoe’s Te Kura Whare, in TÄneatua, Bay of Plenty.
A student center will be based on the ground floor, the second floor will include seminar and conference rooms, and the top floor will house the Maori studies and sustainability offices. Part of the goal is to center the marae at the heart of the university.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (MÄori) Professor Rawinia Higgins (TÅ«hoe) led the project.
She was inspired by New Zealand’s first living building, Te Kura Whare, which stands in its tribal homeland.
âI saw how it uplifted the community, not just my own people, but the community at large, it became a destination: people came and they wanted to learn. ”
An “ambitious”, “difficult” challenge
Architect Ewan Brown said the design of the Living PÄ was both âlife-givingâ and âvery, very difficultâ.
âThe concept is that a building should be like a flower: a flower is rooted in its place, it collects the sun for energy, collects all the water it needs, treats the waste on its own site, c ‘is completely independent, and non-toxic. “
Sustainability standards are measured in seven “petals”: energy, water, materials (the tough three, Brown said), place, fairness, beauty, health and happiness.
The location of the Living PÄ in a hilly and congested urban area made the challenge even greater.
“A normal building, they just plug into the grid, use the electricity they need, or they plug into the water supply, and they use the water from the city’s infrastructure.”
The roof will be covered with photovoltaic solar panels, to harness the sun.
The roof will also collect water and a complex system including basement tanks, vacuum toilets, planters to evaporate excess water and a membrane bioreactor will provide the water system.
Brown is particularly passionate about the fact that the building is carbon neutral.
Buildings account for around 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, he said, 28% through construction and building lifecycles, and 11% through water use and electricity once they are finished.
Most of it will be built in wood, using little concrete and steel. This means that it will capture and store carbon, reducing its carbon count by 110%.
The university will then have to buy carbon credits to offset the rest of the carbon emissions once built.
None of the materials used can be toxic and 90 percent of the construction waste on the site must be collected and recycled.
LT McGuinness is in charge of construction and construction is scheduled to begin in April 2022.
Brown believes the project will prove that it is possible to build to the highest environmental standards.
“This building will become the educator in itself – it will teach the students, the staff, but it will also broadcast in the city, you can do that.”