Futuristic and designed to stack up

By Colin Taylor

Ironbank, a striking new building resembling "haphazardly stacked, rusting shipping containers" and incorporating the latest high-tech car-stacking system, has gradually arisen to dominate the K Rd city fringe commercial area.

Due for completion at 150-154 K Rd in late July, a variety of tenancies are being marketed within the building by Ian Crawford and Tina Ah Chee of Barfoot & Thompson Commercial.

Areas available to lease include street level retail/restaurant space and office areas over the seven levels ranging from 60sq m to 400sq m.

The five-tower building rises seven levels above Cross St and six levels above K Rd. Around 15 per cent of the 5500sq m of leasable building area comprises street-level retail.

Built for Newmarket-based Samson Corporation Limited, Ironbank was "ecologically sustainably designed" by RTA Studio headed by Richard Naish and Tim Melville, and is targeted at achieving a 5-star "as-built" greenstar under the New Zealand Green Building Council's rating.

Constructed around a landscaped plaza, a feature of Ironbank is its high-tech mechanical car stacker that can park 95 cars below street level.

"It's a futuristic building that's a blueprint for other building developments within the Auckland CBD and city fringe," Crawford says.

"This is the ideal head office for any organisation or company supporting or promoting environmentally friendly policies," he says.

Ironbank has already been internationally recognised with a commendation award in the 2008 MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Awards in Cannes, France, attended by 27,000 people.

Naish says the environmentally friendly features of Ironbank include harvested rainwater, solar heating, natural ventilation and low E-glass that prevents too much energy escaping in cold weather while blocking sun on hot days.

A "night purge" system automatically opens windows in the evening letting stale air out. During bad weather the automated system is over-ridden by sensors detecting rain and wind, and the windows remain closed.

The Italian-designed and Chinese-built carparking system is the first of its type to be installed in the Southern Hemisphere, says Brett Jenkins of Auckland-based Olympia Group Carparking Systems.

"It's a trans-elevator fully automatic system," says Jenkins. On entering the building an animated 60-second video on an LCD screen instructs drivers about the simple carparking process within one of three "virtual garages" that are controlled by sliding glass doors.

Computer sensors select a "garage" that is not in use and floor level "runway lights" guide the driver into it, similar to the way sensors steer cars into an automatic car wash. On leaving the car, tenants swipe a card while members of the public using the facility receive a parking ticket.

Vehicles are automatically scanned for any sign of movement as part of the security system. One of two robotic trans-elevators gently lifts the car via a comb system under its tyres, parking it within 30 seconds in one of the available 95 spaces on four lower floors.

When needing the car, a tenant swipes their security card in the passenger lift, sending a message to the car-stacker computer. By the time the driver reaches the basement level garage the car is inside the glass-walled virtual garage, having been turned 180 degrees on a turntable, and ready to be driven away.

If the driver is delayed, the car will remain in the virtual garage for a maximum of 2.5 minutes and will then be returned to its parking space.

"This is one of the most secure ways of protecting vehicles against theft or vandalism," Jenkins says. "From an efficiency and environmental viewpoint, the stacking system only requires 10sq m of space per vehicle as opposed to 32sq m for a standard drive-in concrete carparking building."

The initial building concept for Ironbank was conceived by Richard Naish and developed within RTA and with the assistance of Brown & Thomson as consulting engineers.

"The brief from Samson Corporation was for something exciting and interesting," Naish says.

"We came up with this design through looking at the site's environment and designing something appropriate."

Naish says the "skewed rusting shipping container" design was inspired by Cross St which is a service street where several buildings have developed in a haphazard formation over time.

"Ironbank is like looking along Cross St and lifting that perspective 90 degrees in the air," he says.

"On the other hand K Rd has a number of Victorian and Edwardian-styled buildings so we designed the entrance of Ironbank to blend into the heritage-character appearance of that street."

Naish says improving the "urban network" of the K Rd area was central to the design of the building - particularly the ground-floor landscaped plaza and public pedestrian walkway between Cross and K Rd.

"We envisage people strolling through the walkway and stopping for a coffee in the plaza or to shop. We believe this will encourage a lot more pedestrian flow between Cross St and K Rd.

"From an urban design viewpoint we hope this will lead to a regeneration of Cross St so that more buildings in the vicinity will be converted into shops and restaurants - making it a much more pleasant place to be and improving the urban network of the city."

Naish says large exterior steel plates, that will be allowed to naturally rust, were chosen to clad the building, again because of the "slightly chaotic nature" of Cross St.

"It's also a material that doesn't require any chemical coating system so it fits in with the environmentally friendly intent of the building".

Environmental considerations were implemented early with the demolition of the two-storey Peter Peng building on the site - formerly home of Woolworths NZ and Deka NZ.

Demolition material was sorted into bins with wood, concrete and metal being individually recycled rather than being sent as conglomerated mix to a landfill site.

A number of environmentally friendly features in Ironbank will have the additional effect of reducing operating expenses for tenants.

These include natural ventilation within the building, with the aim of reducing the need for air-conditioning. This is achieved by windows and/or sliding doors being opened at either end of the "boxes".

Because the tenancies are relatively small and face north-south, air will flow from the hot side to the cooler side of the building. While the building has been designed so that it doesn't require any air-conditioning, its infrastructure does allow tenants to install individual units.

All tenants' hot water will be preheated by a solar system on the roof of each of the five buildings which will considerably reduce power consumption.

Other "green" features include the installation of latest energy-saving and luminaire fluorescent tubes.

An interior feature of the offices is the custom-designed metal panelling on the ceilings which was inspired by pressed metal verandahs on K Rd.

"We wanted to introduce into the design some recognition of the history of the buildings that are in K Rd," Naish says.

Environmentally damaging paints and coatings have been excluded from the project and a 60 per cent reduction in the use of PVC piping was targeted to reduce greenhouse gases.

The rainwater collected from the roof serves all toilets and non-potable water supplies such as landscape irrigation.

Auckland Harbour Bridge protesters will be pleased to know that cycle parks and showering facilities have been provided on the ground floor of Ironbank, too.

- NZ Herald

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