Tuhoe: a vi­sion for the fu­ture

A cer­ti­fied ‘liv­ing build­ing’ is one that bi­o­log­i­cally en­hances its en­vi­ron­ment and, as yet, none ex­ist in New Zealand. That’s about to change with the con­struc­tion of Ngai Tuhoe’s new head­quar­ters.

Element - - Architecture Feature - By So­phie Bar­clay

Te Whare­hou o Tuhoe is the soon-to-be-built $15 mil­lion head­quar­ters for Tuhoe, at Tanea­tua, near Whakatane. It will strive to meet the strin­gent mea­sures of the Liv­ing Build­ing Chal­lenge (LBC) – a green build­ing code with wider eco­log­i­cal and so­cial aims.

The build­ing will house Tuhoe of­fices, while the re­main­ing 70% of the com­plex is be­ing built for pub­lic en­joy­ment and will in­clude or­ganic gar­dens to sup­ply the cafe­te­ria, an ex­hi­bi­tion space for artists, taonga and archival stor­age, a li­brary and com­mu­nity rooms. The am­phithe­atre-styled en­trance­way will also act as a venue for hui and the bi­en­nial Tuhoe cel­e­bra­tion. Be­ing just one kilo­me­tre away from a fault line, Te Whare­hou also has a unique earth­quake-proof, tim­ber struc­ture.

The devel­op­ment and build­ing of Te Whare­hou has been, what Tuhoe chair­per­son Ta­mati Kruger calls, “a three-way con­ver­sa­tion” be­tween the tribe, ar­chi­tec­tural firm Jas­max (the project is headed by the leg­endary Ivan Mer­cep) and build­ing com­pany Ar­row In­ter­na­tional. Tuhoe were adamant that the build­ing be char­ac­terised by their com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity so Jas­max sug­gested the LBC.

Te Whare­hou breaks all build­ing prece­dents in this coun­try. It hosts an awe-in­spir­ing list of en­vi­ron­men­tally-ef­fec­tive mea­sures that reads like a green build­ing en­thu­si­ast’s dream.

The north-fac­ing build­ing uses a myr­iad of in­su­la­tion mea­sures to con­trol tem­per­a­ture. It is sealed dur­ing the night to en­sure that heat cap­tured in the con­crete floor is re­tained. Nat­u­ral ven­ti­la­tion is used through­out, ex­cept in the archival stor­age space where air con­di­tion­ing is es­sen­tial.

The build­ing, which strives to achieve net zero en­ergy, waste and water, cap­tures its own water for drink­ing and for use in the bath­rooms and fire sprin­klers. Sewage from the min­i­mal-flush toi­lets will be dealt with on­site, fun­nelled through a nat­u­ral wet­land.

En­ergy from the 240 so­lar pan­els cov­er­ing the en­tire roof will gen­er­ate power, sell­ing ex­cess to the grid. “The pay­back pe­riod is about 8 to 10 years for so­lar,” says Mer­cep. “Once you’ve done that you are run­ning it for free.” En­ergy-ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances will take prece­dence in the new kitchen.

As part of the Chal­lenge, strict at­ten­tion is paid to what ma­te­ri­als are utilised. “The pro­cess­ing and pro­duc­tion of all ma­te­rial in the build­ing has to prove it has not used tox­ins, poi­sons and ma­te­ri­als pro­duced in an un­sus­tain­able way,” says Kruger. “Some of th­ese prod­ucts are not good for you any­way…

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