New life for old build­ings

The Dominion Post - - Commercial Property - Marta Stee­man marta.stee­[email protected]

Com­mer­cial build­ing spe­cial­ists are eye­ing the Govern­ment’s $100 mil­lion ‘‘green’’ in­vest­ment fund, launched in De­cem­ber, to help up­cy­cle old build­ings.

En­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tancy Beca said there was a huge op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the coun­try’s build­ing stock, which is now be­lieved to be belch­ing out 20 per cent of New Zealand’s to­tal car­bon pol­lu­tion.

Beca build­ing ser­vices en­gi­neer Ben Masters said the 20 per cent es­ti­mate in­cluded the car­bon emis­sions im­pact of ex­tract­ing raw ma­te­ri­als, man­u­fac­tur­ing build­ing com­po­nents and de­mol­ish­ing and dis­pos­ing of con­struc­tion waste.

New builds gen­er­ated a huge amount of car­bon pol­lu­tion, Masters said. ‘‘So rather than turn­ing our cities into build­ing sites, why aren’t we up­cy­cling our ex­ist­ing build­ing stock first?’’

The trend for de­vel­op­ers to con­sider low-emis­sions op­tions such as tim­ber missed the big­ger pos­si­bil­i­ties of reusing build­ings.

The re­de­vel­op­ment of Ao­rangi House, a 1970s build­ing in Welling­ton’s Molesworth St that was aban­doned and leak­ing and saved from the wreck­ing ball, was a prime ex­am­ple of what could be achieved.

Beca won the World Green Build­ing Coun­cil’s Lead­er­ship in Sus­tain­able De­sign and Per­for­mance Award last year for the trans­for­ma­tion of Ao­rangi House.

The re­fur­bish­ment cost $9m ver­sus $25m for a new build, with far less car­bon emis­sions than de­mol­ish­ing and build­ing new.

Nat­u­ral ven­ti­la­tion, new so­lar­con­trolled dou­ble glaz­ing, ex­ter­nal so­lar shad­ing, and use of the build­ing’s con­crete mass to store heat in win­ter and cool the in­te­rior in sum­mer were all fea­tures of how Beca and de­sign part­ners Stu­dio Pa­cific Ar­chi­tec­ture achieved a build­ing that con­sumed 64 per cent less en­ergy than a typ­i­cal of­fice build­ing and per­formed bet­ter than most new com­mer­cial prop­er­ties.

Masters said there were plenty of small ‘‘re­furbs’’ but only a few full­blown up­grades like Ao­rangi House tak­ing place.

The green fund, New Zealand Green In­vest­ment Fi­nance Ltd (NZGIF), could help build­ing own­ers grap­ple with en­ergy re­fur­bish­ments, Masters said.

The Govern­ment chose to an­nounce the fund at Beca’s of­fices in Ao­rangi House. En­ergy ef­fi­ciency in com­mer­cial build­ings was one of the projects men­tioned as suit­able for fund in­vest­ment along with elec­tric ve­hi­cles, man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses and low-emis­sions farm­ing prac­tices.

Beca dis­agreed with an anal­y­sis that the fund’s goals were con­flict­ing and that there was in­her­ent risk in fund­ing projects the mar­ket had failed to back.

Many land­lords were strapped for cash, so if cap­i­tal was avail­able on at­trac­tive terms from NZGIF, that might per­suade more land­lords to tackle ma­jor en­ergy re­fits, he said. ‘‘We see huge po­ten­tial for it as long as it was struc­tured in the right way.’’

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency made more sense than in­vest­ing in new tech­nol­ogy that was not proven. Tun­ing a build­ing’s en­ergy sys­tems us­ing com­put­ers would pay for it­self in less than two years and would have a big im­pact on the 1200 large of­fice build­ings in New Zealand that were re­spon­si­ble for over half of the emis­sions from of­fice build­ings, Masters said.

‘‘We’re say­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency is low risk be­cause its proven to work.’’

En­gi­neer­ing build­ing spe­cial­ist David Full­brook at eCubed said it was mostly the cor­po­rate prop­erty com­pa­nies that were un­der­tak­ing whole­sale re­de­vel­op­ments of ex­ist­ing build­ings.

Hun­dreds of com­mer­cial build­ings were owned by smaller firms, which were fo­cused on the rentals rather than on main­te­nance or retrofitting.

Ten­ants were at­tracted to shiny new build­ings, Full­brook said, so it might take a shift in think­ing for re­de­vel­oped build­ings to com­pete.

He said about 90 per cent of New Zealand’s build­ing stock was ex­ist­ing and older build­ings, while the re­main­ing 10 per cent was new. So to re­duce car­bon emis­sions the older stock had to be up­graded for greater en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

One of the is­sues was that lower en­ergy bills fol­low­ing retrofits ben­e­fited ten­ants rather than land­lords be­cause of the way rental pay­ments were struc­tured. New build­ings might have new en­ergy sys­tems but they were not man­aged well in New Zealand, Full­brook said.

Many build­ings could save 30 per cent of their en­ergy con­sump­tion sim­ply through bet­ter tun­ing and man­age­ment sys­tems, he said.

Green Build­ing Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Ea­gles said the new green fund was wel­come and ‘‘at least some form of sup­port’’.

The sin­gle most im­por­tant thing the Govern­ment could do was re­quire a NABERSNZ en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency rat­ing on the build­ings it leased, Ea­gles said. The Govern­ment paid for the NABERS rat­ing tool from Aus­tralia but it did not re­quire the own­ers of build­ings it leased to sup­ply NABERS rat­ings.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously you can throw money at things but per­haps the big­ger step for­ward would be just for the Govern­ment to say: ‘When we are leas­ing we would ex­pect a NABERS cer­tifi­cate on that build­ing.’ ’’

Land­lords would re­act to that and over time they would im­prove their en­ergy sys­tems, he said.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Win­dow units be­ing in­stalled dur­ing the re­de­vel­op­ment of Welling­ton’s Charles Fer­gus­son tower.

Welling­ton’s Ao­rangi House has been re­ju­ve­nated with a raft of en­ergy smart fea­tures, in a $9 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment.

KEVIN STENT/STUFF

The Bowen State build­ing in Welling­ton is due for com­ple­tion late this year, and will be home to the De­fence Force.

A for­mer ware­house, the Ma­son Bros build­ing in Auck­land’s Wyn­yard Quar­ter, is now a mod­ern open of­fice build­ing.

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