In the second part of the Herald's French Connection series, Jamie Morton looks at the case for more green buildings in Auckland.
Olivier Richard's office, high up in a building housing the Paris Urban Planning Agency (APUR), offers a stunning view of the French capital.
A tourist might look out his window and be first drawn to the Eiffel Tower, the twin towers of Notre-Dame cathedral, the river Seine directly below or the striking blue, green and red facade of the Centre Pompidou.
The urban planner likely sees the scene in a different way.
Rooftops that could host greenery, gable walls that could harness solar power, infrastructure that could optimise urban heating and draw more renewable energy.
Paris is currently at the forefront of the global green building revolution.
International rankings have placed the city ahead of the pack for having a proportionally high number of these low-energy, climate-friendly structures, and new projects under way to build more of them.
France already has in place strong regulations that aim to improve the energy performance of buildings, along with green certifications and labels that have seen widespread uptake.
In Paris, around two thirds of building projects were now using them.
"But this is not yet perfect," said Richard, whose city-funded agency helps look at ways to scrounge more energy efficiency out of Paris.
Buildings in Paris make up around two-third of its energy consumption, and if existing ones used as little as new ones, APUR estimated the city's climate 2050 goals could be easily reached - slashing greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter and total energy consumption by half.
So the agency has drawn up a map of Paris, pin-pointing possible green gains among its 127,000 buildings and 460ha of rooftop space.
To the delight of environmental blogs around the world, the city has also introduced new permits allowing residents to plant vegetables and gardens on their roofs and facades.
"The political will is very strong in the city of Paris."
In Auckland, you can stroll down Queen St and see some fine examples of green building.
The Deloitte Centre, at number 80, is fitted with high-performance, low emission glass that helps the sleek glass tower stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
It was one of the first high rises to win the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC)'s 5 Green Star rating, which covers aspects ranging from energy and emissions to ecology and innovation.
The city's new 668-seat, $35 million ASB Waterfront Theatre has also won a top rating.
It's a jewel of the Wynyard Quarter, where council-controlled organisation Panuku is heavily fusing Green Star and the residential equivalent, Homestar, into the burgeoning development.
Auckland could now boast 170 buildings which had received certification, with almost half the green star rated sites clustered around the CBD, and making up about 10 per cent of downtown buildings.
A recent Bayley's report noted Auckland's CBD was in the midst of a new development cycle, with five office projects totalling around 80,000m2 currently under construction.
Most have been registered for Green rating status - a big change from the last cycle, where a construction cost premium was attached to green features.
Yet NZGBC chief executive Andrew Eagles said there were still thousands of existing commercial buildings - and hundreds of thousands of homes - that had no energy performance rating at all.
This was despite European Union nations bringing in labelling for all homes more than a decade ago.
"We are so far behind it hurts."
One city proposal that would have required all new city residential and commercial buildings to be green-certified and sustainable was opposed by some government departments and eventually scrapped during Auckland Unitary Plan hearings.
As for our Building Code?
"I think it's recognised as being decades behind most of the Western world," Eagles said.
In Auckland, homes were frequently damp, cold and poorly insulated, which made them expensive to heat.
And it was the poorest households that paid the greatest proportion of their income - almost 13 per cent - on household energy.
Generally, the city's housing was dispersed, with low density, which made them inefficient, resource hungry and dependent on fossil fuels.
If Auckland was to cope with its bulging population, it would need to build up to 400,000 new dwellings by 2040 - and designing them sustainably would be critical to meeting the city's climate targets.
"If you look at how much we need to ramp up ... from 2025 or 2030, every single building being built needs to be zero energy," Eagles said.
"And we need to be improving all of our existing buildings."
Fortunately, many big sector players, such as Precinct Properties, the company behind major waterfront development Commercial Bay, had embraced the green concept.
"There's a lower operating cost, there are lower vacancies and there's a better financial return from green-certified buildings."
Globally, green buildings have been shown to save money through reduced energy and water use and lower long-term operations and maintenance costs.
The energy savings alone typically exceeded any cost premiums associated with their design and construction within a reasonable payback period.
In New Zealand, commercial buildings used just over 20 per cent of the country's electricity and cost businesses around $800 million.
But with green gains, a building's energy performance could be improved by up to 25 per cent, along with corresponding cost savings.
And as investors and occupiers became more concerned with the environmental and social impacts of the built environment, those buildings with better sustainability credentials would have increased marketability.
In fact, studies from around the world demonstrated a pattern of greener buildings being able to more easily attract tenants and to command higher rents and sale prices.
In New Zealand, a recent survey of building owners carried out by the NZGBC and Bayleys showed most agreed ratings tools had made a positive impact on the quality of building in the country over the past decade, and that these were fundamental to the sustainability of buildings in the future.
Other studies had further shown green buildings could improve absenteeism, mental cognition, productivity and even sleep among workers, through better air quality, ventilation, acoustics, layout and daylight.
"Our buildings can really help us to be healthier and more productive in lots of ways."
Auckland Council chief sustainability officer John Mauro said while buildings weren't as significant as transport in moving the dial on Auckland's emissions, there were obvious co-benefits that were "irresistible".
He said the council's own Albert St building had been one of the city's best commercial green retrofits to date, saving 39 per cent, or an equivalent $500,000, in energy each year, and the council had now committed to rating the energy performance of all its office buildings.
"In the community, there's increasing demand for more sustainable construction - so while there aren't really any current legislative or regulatory drivers, leadership and demand will drive us forward until we have the former."
What are green buildings?
Green buildings draw on sustainable design practices to ensure the structures have a reduced carbon footprint and are comparatively more energy efficient, using up to 42 per cent less energy than a standard building.
They're typically designed, developed and run using such factors as indoor air quality, efficient resource use, outdoor views and synergy with the surrounding landscape, and renewable and zero carbon technologies, making them more comfortable and healthy for occupants, and less costly to operate.
Green buildings are also designed to deliver more liveable spaces.
Examples include, open spaces, creative layouts and walking paths; stair use is encouraged; private offices and conference rooms are centrally located, with open work areas at the perimeter to provide outside views.
Ample natural light can penetrate deeply, supplemented with variable artificial light, while highly filtered air includes large quantities of outside air. Temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
While a world of green buildings could not decarbonise the planet by themselves, they could make a large impact, given much of the world's emissions come from the built environment.
Auckland's green stars
Deloitte building: 80 Queen St
While being built, three quarters of its construction waste was re-used or diverted from landfill.
The tower at 80 Queen St, designed by Woods Bagot and Warren and Mahoney, has a monitoring system to measure ambient indoor air quality, maximised natural light, special glass to reduce solar loading and a twin facade on its west face with automatic louvres to regulate air flow through the cavity.
A quarter of its parking spaces are designed for smaller cars, potable water usage is restricted to six litres a day per person, thermal insulation avoids the use of ozone-reducing substances and there are facilities for rainwater collection and recycling, along with dedicated storage for separation, collection and recycling of office waste.
NZI Centre: 1 Fanshawe St
Soon after being built by Jasmax in 2009, the five-storey centre gained a 5-Star green star rating on both design and interior fit-out, with extensive green and smart features.
The facade has automatically controlled blinds that moderate glare and sunlight, and the building's interior features underfloor heating and exposed concrete ceilings to moderate the temperature.
Light fittings are controlled by smart timers and motion sensors, ensuring that lights aren't left on in empty offices and the toilets are flushed by rain water collected from the roof top.
Geyser Building: 102/100 Parnell Rd
The Geyser office building in Parnell, Auckland, has glass walls on all sides, is set above a 180-vehicle automated car park stacking system, and has 100 per cent fresh air.
Designed by Andrew Patterson, the 5040sq m Geyser has been designed to use 27 per cent of the energy of a typical office building of its size, requires only half the artificial lighting, and uses only half the water.
Seventy per cent of its waste was also recycled.
Opened in 2012, it was New Zealand's first building to be awarded 6 Green Stars in sustainable office design.
EY Building: 2 Takutai Square
Built atop the Britomart Rail Station, the energy-efficient Ernst and Young Building - better known as the EY Building or east complex - features two towers bridged by three crosswise floors.
Designed and constructed by Johnson Pilton Walker and Peddle Thorp with a strong focus on sustainability, the 10-level building holds a five-star green star rating.
The Atrium on Takutai that runs between it and the northern part of Westpac on Takutai Square also features distinctive planted "green walls" that live on harvested rainwater and yield further environmental benefits.
Seven ways green buildings make better workplaces
Low concentrations of CO2, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants, as well as high ventilation rates, result in a increase in cognitive scores for workers.
2. A comfortable temperature range which staff can control ensures staff aren't too hot or too cold and lifts performance.
3. Generous access to daylight and self-controlled electrical lighting result in improved night-time sleep for workers in offices near windows.
4. Materials that reduce noise and provide quiet spaces to work, lifting staff performance as a result of distracting noise.
5. A diverse array of workspaces, with ample meeting rooms, quiet zones, and stand-sit desks which promote active movement within offices. Flexible workspaces help staff feel more in control of their workload and engender loyalty.
6. Colours, textures and materials that are welcoming, calming and evoke nature. Visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction.
7. Access to public transport, safe bike routes, parking and showers, and a range of health food choices result is less absenteeism.
- Source: Bayleys, World Green Building Council
Tuesday: Making Auckland green again
Today: Building greener
Tomorrow: Moving greener
Friday: Boosting our greenery
• Jamie Morton was hosted in Paris by the French government.