HOW BUILD­INGS CAN RE­STORE NA­TURE

The very act of de­sign­ing and con­struct­ing the new Tuhoe tribal head­quar­ters will im­prove the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in which it sits. It will be New Zealand’s first ‘Liv­ing Build­ing’.

Element - - Business - By Jerome Part­ing­ton Jerome Part­ing­ton is the sus­tain­abil­ity man­ager at Jas­max, a lead­ing NZ de­sign firm, with a re­mit for sus­tain­able in­no­va­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and green­ing of the busi­ness. Jerome has pi­loted in­te­grated de­sign in NZ to cre­ate high per­for­man

Na­ture is smart. Over the mil­len­nia life has evolved – on a shoe­string bud­get – to cre­ate this beau­ti­ful planet with an out­stand­ing life sup­port sys­tem, all op­ti­mised to run on the en­ergy pro­vided by the sun!

But we have en­tered the An­thro­pocene era and we are now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the cu­mu­la­tive im­pacts of bil­lions of peo­ple and a waste­ful eco­nomic sys­tem. Im­pacts so mas­sive we are ac­tu­ally dis­rupt­ing this steady state life sys­tem through cli­mate change, toxic pol­lu­tion in the air, land and wa­ter, bio­di­ver­sity col­lapse and so­cial in­equal­ity. One crit­i­cal arena for this dis­rup­tion is in our build­ings, in­vari­ably im­pact­ing on, and ex­pand­ing into, valu­able eco­log­i­cal and pro­duc­tive land.

The Liv­ing Build­ing Chal­lenge (LBC) asks us to de­ter­mine the suc­cess of our build­ings by mea­sur­ing them against na­ture’s per­for­mance. The ideal is to cre­ate a build­ing that works as ef­fi­ciently and beau­ti­fully as a flower; har­vest­ing wa­ter and en­ergy from the sky, lo­cal ‘nu­tri­ents’ from the ground, con­tain­ing zero toxic ma­te­ri­als and man­ag­ing any waste on site.

A Liv­ing Build­ing is one that is de­lib­er­ately de­signed to re­store, to heal rather than harm our com­mu­ni­ties and the en­vi­ron­ment.

The Bul­lit Cen­tre, a re­cently com­pleted six story of­fice build­ing in Seat­tle, is a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple of the Liv­ing Build­ing per­for­mance in a cooler, cloudy cli­mate. Only healthy ma­te­ri­als were used in the build - to elim­i­nate all car­cino­genic and hor­mone dis­rupt­ing chem­i­cals, com­mon in our build­ings. Smart de­sign us­ing win­dow tech­nol­ogy (they open!), in­su­la­tion, su­per-ef­fi­cient lights and com­put­ers and a small ground ex­change heat pump sys­tem all com­bine to of­fer an in­cred­i­ble 83% re­duc­tion in op­er­a­tional en­ergy use. The re­main­ing en­ergy de­mand is pro­vided by an 800m2 so­lar elec­tric roof.

Sim­i­larly the Bul­lit uses 80% less wa­ter by us­ing foam flush toi­lets that send waste to base­ment com­post­ing units, and a small roof top gar­den is ac­tu­ally a de­signed wet­land treat­ing all the grey wa­ter from kitchens and show­ers be­fore this pol­ished wa­ter ir­ri­gates the lo­cal park.

Projects like this meet ev­ery day func­tional needs on a quadru­ple net zero ba­sis. Net zero en­ergy, wa­ter, toxic ma­te­ri­als and waste. The CIRS build­ing (Cen­tre for In­ter­ac­tive Re­search on Sus­tain­abil­ity) at UBC Van­cou­ver goes way be­yond sim­ple ‘net Zero’. The project claims seven net pos­i­tive out­comes –it is ac­tu­ally restora­tive.

The tim­ber pri­mary struc­ture has se­questered more carbon diox­ide than was emit­ted from en­ergy used dur­ing con­struc­tion. CIRS scav­enges en­ergy from an ad­ja­cent ‘leaky’ build­ing and uses it for heat­ing. Lo­cally con­trolled fresh air and light of­fer net pos­i­tive hu­man well­be­ing. There is a ‘Liv­ing Ma­chine’ with aquatic plants which pro­cesses waste wa­ter, but ac­tu­ally sized to har­vest wa­ter from the sewer be­low. It cleans that wa­ter be­fore ex­port­ing it to the ad­ja­cent green­houses. The CIRS café op­er­ates ‘zero waste to land­fill’, us­ing lo­cal pro­duce, re­us­able pack­ag­ing and tagletelle for cof­fee stir­rers.

In New Zealand a Liv­ing Build­ing project is near­ing com­ple­tion: Te Uru Tau­matua” - Tuhoe’s new head­quar­ters in Tanea­tua near Whakatane.

Tuhoe’s Te Uru Tau­matua is de­signed by Jas­max and is now un­der con­struc­tion by Ar­row In­ter­na­tional. Tuhoe has asked the project team to de­sign and build to com­ply with the LBC as there is a strong align­ment with Tuhoe val­ues and wis­dom. The im­pact of decades of coloni­sa­tion has been harsh, es­pe­cially in dis­con­nect­ing Tuhoe from their lands. The build­ing will be the new ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­tre and meet­ing place for Tuhoe Iwi and a sig­nal of restora­tion and re­gen­er­a­tion. It’s due for com­ple­tion in De­cem­ber.

Te Uru Tau­matua is lit­er­ally trans­lated as a grove of tau­matua trees which sus­tain life and its en­vi­ron­ment. The word is unique to Tuhoe and en­cap­su­lates sus­tain­abil­ity and sus­te­nance, strength, unity, iden­tity, icon, se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity to those con­nected to it

The project is a leader in sus­tain­abil­ity and re­gen­er­a­tion. In­no­va­tive tim­ber piled foun­da­tions, col­umns and struc­tural pan­els are seis­mic re­sis­tant, they se­quester carbon and are treated with­out chrome or ar­senic. The whole build­ing can be dis­man­tled at the end of its use­ful life. The tim­ber used is from ex­te­rior wood spe­cial­ist Abodo Wood, which sup­plied cladding and deck­ing from NZ Forestry Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil (FSC) cer­ti­fied plan­ta­tions or sal­vaged from the for­est – all within 150km from the con­struc­tion site.

The roof hosts the largest ar­ray of so­lar elec­tric pan­els in the coun­try – in­stalled by so­lar com­pany Al­pha­tron – and a high per­for­mance flat plate so­lar hot wa­ter sys­tem in­stalled by EWA TEC. With aware and mo­ti­vated oc­cu­pants it will eas­ily achieve net zero en­ergy, tar­get­ing

a very low 45kwhs/m2 for the of­fice, about half cur­rent best prac­tice in NZ.

Wa­ter is col­lected from the roof and af­ter use, treated in a planted con­structed wet­land be­fore recharg­ing the ground aquifer. Day­light and fresh air en­sure the oc­cu­pants of the of­fices and meet­ing spa­ces are com­fort­able and healthy through the year. 5000 earth bricks made by Tuhoe peo­ple will line the walls and help con­di­tion the in­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment, suck­ing in heat and mois­ture and re­leas­ing it when needed.

Key to suc­cess has been the pro­gram of en­gag­ing lo­cal peo­ple and train­ing them for con­struc­tion skills and em­ploy­ment as well as their per­sonal con­tri­bu­tion to the build­ing.

Com­ply­ing with LBC ma­te­ri­als was an oner­ous task for the Jas­max team, fol­lowed with on­site ver­i­fi­ca­tion by Ar­row. Each of the 350 ma­te­ri­als are checked out for tox­i­c­ity, sourc­ing ori­gin, FSC com­pli­ance chain, the em­bod­ied carbon value and any waste is­sues. This work has led to the dis­cov­ery of new lo­cal sup­pli­ers and changes in for­mu­la­tions to re­move toxic chem­i­cals from prod­ucts.

The land­scape de­sign and plant­ing has two key driv­ers; to al­low the for­est to re-es­tab­lish and be the set­ting for the build­ing whilst of­fer­ing sig­nif­i­cant food and medic­i­nal plant cul­ti­va­tion, a re­quire­ment of the LBC.

A se­ri­ous in­vest­ment is also be­ing made to en­sure the build­ing is beau­ti­ful; Tuhoe has in­vested sig­nif­i­cantly in com­mis­sion­ing lo­cal artists to dis­play their work next to artists like Colin McCa­hon. His­tor­i­cal arte­facts will be on dis­play and they have worked closely with Jas­max’s Land­scape team to en­sure the plant­ing and de­sign sur­round­ing the build­ing al­lows the for­est to re-es­tab­lish and of­fers sig­nif­i­cant food and medic­i­nal plant cul­ti­va­tion, a re­quire­ment of the LBC.

In re­al­ity, for the at­ten­tion this build­ing re­ceives, it is re­ally a seed planted to help Tuhoe re­store their com­mu­ni­ties, build so­cial cap­i­tal through new skills and ideas, to cre­ate jobs and healthy sus­tain­ing com­mu­ni­ties and build­ings that nur­ture their peo­ple and their land. Far-sighted Tuhoe are clearly walk­ing to­ward a self- sus­tain­ing fu­ture, closely aligned with na­ture. They are shin­ing a bright light on the path for the rest of New Zealand to fol­low.

Top left: The new Tuhoe head­quar­ters un­der con­struc­tion.

Bot­tom left: The Bul­lit Cen­tre in Seat­tle, USA. Right: 5000 earth bricks have been made by Tuhoe peo­ple for use in the build­ing’s con­struc­tion.

Liv­ing Build­ings can only be cer­ti­fied ‘Liv­ing’ af­ter they have proved their per­for­mance dur­ing a full year of oc­cu­pa­tion. The Seven Petal Per­for­mance ar­eas

of the LBC;

• Site – restor­ing a healthy co-ex­is­tence with na­ture

• Wa­ter – cre­at­ing wa­ter in­de­pen­dent sites, build­ings and com­mu­ni­ties • En­ergy – re­ly­ing on cur­rent so­lar in­come Health – max­imis­ing phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal health and well­be­ing

• Ma­te­ri­als – en­dors­ing prod­ucts and pro­cesses that are safe for all species through time • Eq­uity – sup­port­ing a just eq­ui­table world • Beauty – cel­e­brat­ing de­sign that cre­ates trans­for­ma­tional change

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