An early childhood centre in Kawakawa described as "technically excellent and genuinely cutting-edge" has won a national award for energy efficiency.

The Ngati Hine Health Trust's Te Mirumiru childcare centre, New Zealand's first commercial earth bank building, won the Innovation Award in the 2014 EECA Awards. The joint award was shared with DNZ Property Fund for its Meridian Building on Wellington's waterfront.

EECA chief executive Mike Underhill said Te Mirumiru and Meridian were examples of energy efficient design, construction and management, and brought benefits to their owners and users beyond simple energy savings.

"The Te Mirumiru earth bank building is technically advanced, using passive design to reduce energy use by two-thirds. It provides real cost savings for its iwi owners, as well as health and education benefits. It's an asset that will deliver long-term value to the community," he said.


Te Mirumiru was designed by CASA architects and was integrated into the landscape with a complete green roof and earth banks. It was close to 70 per cent more energy efficient than a standard building, using passive heating and cooling to reduce power consumption. It used solar energy for water and under-floor heating and is fully glazed on one side for maximum daylight and passive solar heat.

Mr Underhill said it was the first education building in New Zealand to attain 6 Green Stars, the highest possible rating.

Judges said the building was technically excellent and genuinely cutting-edge, marking the first time passive annual heat storage had been used in New Zealand. The project was also highly commended in the Community Award category.

Te Mirumiru is also rich in references to Ngati Hine icons such as the tuna (eel), the waka, and the eponymous ancestor Hine-a-Maru.

Architect Phil Smith told the Advocate he wanted to create a genuinely Maori building, not simply a western building overlaid with Maori carvings. It was based around the concepts of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and Papatuanuku.

Its womb-like shape and single entrance, a cut in the earth of its northern face, represented Hine-a-Maru giving birth by Caesarean section some 600 years ago.

The EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) Awards are held every two years to celebrate organisations and individuals demonstrating excellence in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Collectively this year's awards entrants will save or generate energy worth about $100 million over the projects' lifetimes and reduce or avoid 200,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.