Tauranga City Council's new administration building is set to be one of the largest timber office buildings in New Zealand as part of grand plans to lead the world in sustainability.
The Bay of Plenty Times can today reveal the council's future leased offices will be built out of engineered timber instead of traditional concrete and steel in most parts.
The 10,000sq m building will also feature rainwater harvesting, electric vehicle charging and facilities to encourage active transport options. The building is aimed at reaching a 6 Green Star review rating, which is considered to demonstrate world leadership in sustainability.
The council sold the 90 Devonport Rd site to its development partner, Willis Bond, in December with an agreement it would construct a building the council would lease back for its staff.
In May, the council signed off its Refreshed Civic Masterplan which involved the $304m Civic Precinct project Te Manawataki o Te Papa — a new Civic Whare (public meeting house), library, museum and exhibition space, expected to take eight years.
During the consultation of the Long-term Plan Amendment 2021-2031, featuring the Civic Precinct project, many submissions called for the council to make sustainable and environmentally friendly choices when planning new civic builds.
Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said such sustainable outcomes were front of mind when considering this new building.
"We wanted to push the boundaries to design a wholly sustainable, future-focused workplace which maximises the use of natural materials such as the exposed timber columns which celebrate the uniqueness of the building," Tolley said.
Timber was expected to be the most carbon-efficient building material for multi-storey construction.
It had been scientifically recognised as a construction material that greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption during the product manufacturing and building construction stages.
Tolley said mātauranga Māori principles (Māori knowledge systems) would be incorporated and add to the look and feel of the building.
"This will be our home for at least the duration of the 15-year lease. It's important that we get it right and create a facility that both speaks to Tauranga Moana origins and provides a welcoming and people-friendly space for our staff and the community."
Bringing together all administration staff in one building would have significant cost and efficiency benefits, Tolley said.
It would also be the first time all council staff would be working from the same building since 2014.
The council previously found it was costing $1 million a year in lost productivity by having staff working between four locations after black mould was discovered at the council's Willow St site.
Tolley said the council's long-term lease meant there would be no construction outlay, which would also help the council stay within its required debt limits.
Willis Bond executive chair Mark McGuinness said the project set a new precedent for innovative and sustainable building design in New Zealand.
"Our goal is always to keep as much carbon in the ground as possible and to walk with a light footprint. What makes this project unique is the scale at which we've been able to achieve this," McGuinness said.
Willis Bond and the council had been in talks about the new council building since May 2020, with the council eventually agreeing in December 2021 to sell the 90 Devonport Rd property to Willis Bond to then lease it off them.
Construction was expected to begin later this year and be completed in 2024.
In a council meeting in October last year in which the building's potential design was discussed, Scion sustainable architect Andrea Stocchero said there was little reason not to build with wood.
"Building with wood is a great option, both for long-term carbon storage and for the broader social, economic and environmental advantages that wood provides on top of other technical, functional and biophilic benefits."
In that same meeting, programme manager of the Civic Redevelopment Programme Mike Naude said timber was "the perfect option".
Willis Bond and the council had a 12-year Partnering Agreement which provides WIllis Bond to work with the council to deliver real estate on council-owned land in the Tauranga city centre.
Willis Bond had also been a key party involved in the Tauranga Civic Precinct Masterplan.