Energy savings of over $90,000 a year - enough to power 80 households - is being achieved by Auckland University of Technology's new $56m flagship building at its south campus in Manukau.
Clad in fixed shading panels, the building is kept at a constant temperature by a highly efficient mechanical ventilation system and lit throughout with LED lighting.
These and other measures are creating a warm, sustainable building - and up to 143 tonnes of carbon savings a year, an amount similar to taking 52 cars off the road.
The shading panels, which cut heat gain while still allowing natural light and outside views, are part of energy efficient features in the building - known as Mana Hauora (the power of wellbeing) - made possible by low cost government loans provided by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).
Because it lies directly under the flight path to Auckland airport - a high aircraft noise area - natural ventilation wasn't an option. Instead a displacement ventilation system located in the floor cavities provides an energy efficient solution easily adaptable to changes in the building layout.
The result, says AUT's director of strategic asset development Suzanne Webb, is not only cleverly designed, but beautiful.
"We certainly need a flagship building for the campus to put it on the map," she says.
Built on the former Carter Holt Harvey site on Great South Road, Mana Hauora is surrounded by four existing buildings retro-fitted for academic life following the university's purchase of the property in 2008.
Webb says all of AUT's major capital projects feature an environmentally sustainable design focus: "We believe as good citizens we should be building sustainable buildings."
Webb says the opportunity to use an EECA loan was grabbed during the preliminary design phase by the construction team, which included architects Jasmax and engineering expertise from Beca. Additional EECA funding allowed Beca to undertake in-depth analysis to identify potential energy savings during the early stages of the project.
EECA loans are a low-cost, interest-free funding option public organisations including schools, hospitals and local councils can access to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
"I think it is an absolute no-brainer now," says Webb. "With the collaborative approach between us, our consultant team at Jasmax and EECA, we can stretch our thinking, design for the future and showcase to the community what we can do in terms of being energy efficient."
Greg Visser, EECA Business general manager, says using EECA backing helps ensure energy efficient design features are retained during construction.
"This project is a wonderful example of an organisation being able to invest up front in energy efficiency in a way that will save it a considerable amount of money over time and improve the comfort of the building and the productivity of the people working in it.
"The improvements represent less than one per cent of the build cost and are great value for money," says Visser. "It's a great building that AUT is rightly proud of - what an asset for Auckland."
Formed into two wings - a four level south wing and a three level north wing - Mana Hauora is predominantly made up of teaching and learning areas, with almost 70 per cent of the space fully fitted out and operational.
It will help meet a growing campus capacity with an estimated 5000 students expected to be attending classes there by 2030.
Webb says monitoring and fine tuning the building's system to ensure everything is running at peak efficiency will continue for the next year or so, while EECA is providing support in assessing the effectiveness of the energy saving measures.
There is also potential for more savings with Mana Hauora's rooftops designed for future solar electricity generation, while water use will be cut when a wastewater system is commissioned, using settling tanks, UV treatment and gardens to provide clean water back into the building for flushing toilets.
Phase one of the treatment system, designed to store and discharge sewage at off-peak periods to ease the pressure on the overloaded public wastewater line, is already in place.
"It's a big saving for Watercare's system," says Webb. "It reuses water so we're not buying water to flush the toilets and it's a nice, natural treatment element."
Any design elements that work or can be improved on will flow through to the design of AUT's next building project - likely to be at its Akoranga campus on the North Shore.
"With all these cleverly designed buildings," says Webb, "you're building up data and experience to really show if what you're doing is working or not."