John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Relief for city flat shortage

Jamil and Malaika Hannah say it was tough to find a flat.
Jamil and Malaika Hannah say it was tough to find a flat.

Two unusual new buildings are bucking the economic doldrums and setting new trends in the country's biggest city.

On Parnell Rd, a new office block will press for the title of New Zealand's cleanest look and in Auckland's CBD, a garbage-ridden corner will be the site of a new tower to tackle the housing crisis.

The Geyser, due for completion this year, is a glassy Parnell office building with a solution to Auckland's schizophrenic weather.

"On a hot day, the hotter side of the building opens up at the top and the cooler side opens at the bottom," architect Andrew Patterson said. "The building naturally heats and cools itself."

Patterson said sustainable building practices were moving from the hippie fringe to the mainstream. "Having a green sustainability rating is becoming much more of a norm."

The Geyser would also have its own rainwater collection system. The New Zealand Green Building Council said it was the first office building in the country to achieve a "six-star" Green Star rating for environmental impact.

Patterson was confident of Auckland's office construction sector. "Auckland has a growing atmosphere of looking into the future. Recently, the market's starting to get more positive."

At 27 Rutland St, near Auckland's Central Library and universities, a new tower will replace an abandoned, rubbish-ridden building known for squatters and graffiti.

Though some locals called the 13-storey tower's design "far out", they said it would relieve the city's disastrous housing shortage.

Neighbouring Rutland St Espresso House owner Richard Amor said: "What's there at the moment is pretty disgusting. It couldn't get any worse." Although Amor said he'd like the old Green Elephant building to be restored, it was time to move on.

Razor wire and boarded-up doors mark the old building, which is accessible only by climbing an unstable, wire mesh, rusted fire escape. Garbage and graffiti surround it. Opened windows on the top floor show signs of squatters.

The new tower will combine a hotel with rooms for the lucrative student housing sector.

Aucklanders Jamil and Malaika Hannah called the concept design "far out" but said more buildings like it were needed.

"It's wild out there," Jamil said. "I recently moved back from the UK. I was trying to get a flat. It's absolutely impossible."

Barfoot & Thompson estate agent Allan Myers said the design shown was a starting point.

"The conceptual drawings make it look a little more space-age," he said. Babbage Architects designed the tower.

University of Auckland professor of architecture Errol J Haarhoff welcomed the initial plans. "The bedrooms are small but efficiently designed to suit their purpose as affordable accommodation for students."

He said a Rutland St do-up was overdue.

If Auckland Council gives consent, construction would begin around October and take a year.

- Herald on Sunday

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