Composting toilets a hit with staff

By Angela Gregory

Toilets might not usually feature in staff satisfaction surveys, but Landcare Research has found the composting toilets it has in its new Auckland building have been a hit.

Staff member Jeremy Gabe has researched how satisfied staff have been since they started working in the new Glen Innes building, opened in 2004 and designed on eco-friendly principles.

Mr Gabe found that the composting toilets produced one of the highest measurements of employee satisfaction when compared with other aspects of the building.

Seven of the 12 toilets were waterless, composting toilets which also reduced wastewater discharge. Mr Gabe told the Herald one reason they were popular was that people found they did not smell.

He said nearly all of the sustainable features of the building showed higher degrees of occupant satisfaction than the conventionally designed and operated areas.

The main exception was the use of exposed concrete floors, ceilings and walls as part of the passive space-conditioning strategy. Mr Gabe said staff found the concrete ugly and it accentuated noise.

But he said that was a trade-off between what the occupants found to be a more satisfying passively conditioned space provided by the exposed concrete, which was used because of its thermal storage capacity.

Negative staff reactions to the look and feel of the building focused on the untreated concrete floors, white walls, aluminium cladding and exposed cables and pipes.

It was said to look like a tin can, and working there was like living in a cowshed.

But Mr Gabe said the ecologically sustainable, commercial office and laboratory building had been focused on achieving the best possible environmental performance metrics while keeping under a budget of $2000 per square metre.

That was roughly equivalent to the average cost of conventional commercial construction in Auckland.

Energy efficiency was one goal of the building design, and actual energy consumption during 2005 was 28 per cent less than what would be expected had it used conventional construction.

That was achieved through the passive climate control using a northern orientation, super-insulation, exposed thermal mass (concrete structural elements and concrete floor construction), and operable double-glazing in occupied spaces.

Mechanical space-conditioning and ventilation were designed to service only the spaces where standards require it, such as the laboratories and collections.

Water efficiency was also required to allow for a smaller demand for mains water and reduced discharge of stormwater and wastewater to minimise its impact on natural waters.

The mains water consumption was reduced by collecting stormwater from the roof for non-potable re-use to flush conventional toilets and irrigate the glasshouse experiments. Low-flow fixtures were used on all domestic appliances.

Mr Gabe said such features had saved thousands of dollars on the building's water bills.

- NZ Herald

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