Warren and Mahoney Architects' business has been carbon zero for more than 13 years, having reduced the carbon intensity of its operations by more than 40 per cent and planning another 50 per cent reduction over the next 10 years.
"Way back in 2008 we were identified by United Nations as one of the top 100 companies which were early adopters of carbon neutrality (or no net greenhouse gas emissions). We were a carbon centurion," says Graeme Finlay, chairman of Warren and Mahoney based in Christchurch.
Warren and Mahoney has eliminated its petrol-powered car fleet in favour of shared electric vehicles; it uses the NabersNZ energy efficiency measurements for its lighting, air conditioning, ventilation and heating in its studios; it creates a weekly report on plugged-in power and changes behaviour accordingly; it has passive days when the temperature is acceptable to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows; and it has reduced single use plastic.
The architectural firm, operating out of seven offices in New Zealand and Australia, now sees one of its main roles as educating and encouraging its clients to build sustainable, longer-life (beyond 50 years), healthy green buildings.
Warren and Mahoney's commitment to climate change is that by 2030, in consultation with clients, all new projects it designs will be net-zero carbon operationally; be 50 per cent more energy efficient; and have 40 per cent less embodied carbon (in building structures).
Some of the technology and innovation employed will be computer analysis; smart day lighting, natural ventilation and water management systems; waste minimalisation in construction and operations of the buildings; and low environment impact design and materials, which have low toxicity for the wellbeing of tenants and visitors.
Finlay says the green building revolution is in the starting blocks. "I think the starting gun has gone off in the last six months — with governments representing two-thirds of the world economy making binding commitments to be carbon neutral by 2050, such as the EU, UK, United States, South Korea and Japan and in the case of China by 2060.
"This represents a massive global shift in the way we will need to design our future buildings and cities. It also represents a huge opportunity.
"The industry in New Zealand has built up amazing knowledge and expertise, and we are very well positioned to move quickly on sustainability and launch into green buildings. I hope we have the strength, courage and commitment to do that.
"We believe that everything we have learned — intellectual property and knowledge — should be shared.
"We want to make sure the product we deliver is fit-for-future, and will attract talented staff, which is a key component because talent wants to be part of sustainability."
Finlay, who was an establishment board member of the NZ Green Building Council, says the government absolutely needs to take a lead; get action on the ground, and the private sector and developers will follow.
"We can see it appearing with the government pledging their buildings will have a NabersNZ energy rating, and Ministry of Health adopting the Green Star rating for their new hospital buildings.
Upgrading the Building Code is absolutely part of the sustainability programme.
"If the Government signals future changes to the code, then that's not a problem as the market can anticipate this and make decisions now."
Finlay says in the past year the focus on sustainability has grown dramatically. "It is no exaggeration that the majority of our new commissions now have a significant focus on environmental performance, mostly with a Green Star or climate change lens.
He says Kainga Ora-Homes and Communities has a huge building programme and is actively trialling new ways to construct their buildings to reduce carbon, their environmental impact and improve the wellness of occupants.
The trials include the adoption of 6 Star Homestar builds for social housing, and Warren and Mahoney is investigating the use of low-carbon cross-laminated timber construction (replacing some steel and concrete) and super low energy Passive House design, developed in Europe in the 1990s.
Passive House buildings rely largely on "passive" influences such as sunshine, shade and ventilation to achieve comfortable temperatures rather than air conditioning and heating.
Warren and Mahoney has designed the $300 million Taranaki Base Hospital east wing to a 5 Green Star rating. The new 20,000sq m building in New Plymouth will house the acute clinical and critical care services, including the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit, and is part of the phased redevelopment of the hospital, in line with a masterplan prepared by the architects.
The stage two development will enable the hospital to transfer crucial services out of earthquake-prone buildings and into state-of-the-art facilities. There will be purpose-built maternity facilities and a delivery suite, a new postnatal ward and neonatal unit, upgraded laboratory and radiology services, a rooftop helipad, and an energy centre that removes dependence on steam and existing boilers.
Finlay says local government has been a standout performer in the drive towards more sustainable designs.
"I am sure that being owner-operators and responsible for the environment has played a large part in the sustainability drive. In the aftermath of the earthquake rebuild in Christchurch, a number of buildings have untold sustainability stories."
The Government commissioned Warren and Mahoney to create a blueprint for the regeneration of Christchurch and out of it came the Metro Sports Facility, which includes an indoor aquatic hall with 79m competition swimming pool and seating for more than 1000 spectators; a leisure pool with hydroslides; indoor running track; nine indoors netball and basketball courts and retractable seating for 2500 spectators.
Finlay says the facility is a world class venue and centre of excellence, accessible to people of all ages, abilities and skills.
"At 30,000sq m, Metro Sport combines a large programme of sport and wellness facilities under one roof on a 6ha site. The challenge of such a large-scale building was overcome through the creation of a central social hub which collects and connects all users and activities."
Warren and Mahoney then moved on to the Melbourne Darebin City Council's NZ$68m redevelopment of the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre built in 1968 — a 6 Green Star project.
The replacement facility include an enhanced outdoor 50m pool, and indoor lane, warm water, leisure, splash and learn-to-swim pools. There are multi-purpose spaces for group fitness and yoga, and consulting rooms for health professionals.
Warren and Mahoney associate principal Fiona Short, the firm's sustainability champion, says the Darebin project is a fantastic example of climate design.
"The council was the first globally to declare a climate emergency in 2016 and "we hope this project can set an example of what climate responsive design can look like."
Short says the all-electric facility is highly energy efficient — aquatic centres are traditionally the highest emission buildings — with the low-maintenance timber structure reducing the carbon footprint, and a large renewable energy solar panel system on the roof providing most of the energy.
No fossil fuels are burned on the site.
The main challenge was to create a design that's sympathetic to the local, largely residential neighbourhood, and framing a new 50m pool and external space.
Warren and Mahoney met the challenge by using materials sympathetic to the neighbourhood — brick and timber — and breaking down the overall visual mass through careful modulation of facade and roof elements.
Finlay says tertiary institutes are embracing sustainability.
His firm has designed Lincoln University's Sciences North building which incorporates a new laboratory, research workplace and teaching facility.
The building will use renewable energy sources including geothermal drawn from the aquifer below the campus and photovoltaic arrays (solar panel system) on the roof and external walls.
For cost efficiency, Warren and Mahoney provided an innovative seismic solution that decreases the steel weight.
And being close to Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere), the stormwater run-off is filtered and purified and integrated into the surrounding landscape.
Finlay says sustainablility has now become part of Otago Polytechnic's culture and brand.
The polytechnic is constructing its second large-scale timber building to house the Trades Training Centre and showcase the potential of cross-laminated timber structures to reduce the embodied carbon energy of construction.
Warren and Mahoney is also involved in designing Otago University's new medical school in Christchurch — a project that is targeting 5 Green Star.
Ngai Tahu Property is developing the sustainable Pita Te Hori Centre mixed use neighbourhood — the location of the old King Edward Barracks — on a downtown city block next to Avon River in Christchurch.
Warren and Mahoney is preparing an urban designed masterplan for four office buildings, a multi-storey carpark, 70 apartments, public gardens and park, and laneways.
A pedestrian pathway flows from the Bridge of Remembrance to the civic centre and art gallery.
Finlay says phase one includes two Green Star buildings which will have a photovoltaic array and central energy system using aquifers.
"This centralised system allows energy and waste heat to be shared between buildings across the whole city block, further improving the efficiency of the campus.
"The advantage in designing a complete block is much better use of land with the creation of a campus-style commercial precinct with an inner courtyard.
"Office accommodation enjoys natural lighting from two sides and the courtyard brings people into the heart of the site.
"There are no back alleys with wasted space, and the buildings are better able to deal with overheating and shading."
Finlay says the Pita Te Hori Centre is a new urban design strategy for Christchurch and a significant departure from the old city model. The city's working population is migrating west to be based along the Avon River, and ironically the Pita Te Hori block was once the historical commercial centre and known as West End in the19th Century. That name has been reclaimed.
Finlay gives credit to a number of major property developers leading the green building charge in New Zealand and Australia.
By 2017 Lendlease had delivered 100 Green Star buildings, and Finlay says the company's focus at the moment is extending the potential of cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction to reduce the embodied carbon of their buildings.
"They have recently purchased manufacturing capability to fabricate their own CLT, and we are working with them on design of a major CLT building in central Melbourne," he says.
Precinct Properties in New Zealand have protected their assets by designing them to Green Star and higher environmental standards — such as Commercial Bay office and retail centre at the bottom of Queen St, and 10 and 12 Madden St and Mason Bros. buildings in the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct.
Warren and Mahoney is working with Precinct on a low carbon design which has the potential to become carbon neutral.
Finlay says while business response varies widely, sustainability has become a key requirement for all future-focused businesses.
"Google is seeking the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating for the building we are designing for them in Sydney, and sustainability is the core consideration for Fisher and Paykel's new buildings we've designed in New Zealand," he says.
Warren and Mahoney's minimum sustainability standards
Identity — assist clients to identify environmental targets and advocate the use of independent building ratings and accreditation schemes.
Longevity — give preference to using durable, low maintenance materials and finishes, and promote design strategies that support long term flexibility and adaptability.
Energy — all buildings have a heating/cooling and day lighting energy model developed at concept and preliminary design, including sub-metering to measure energy use on all commercial projects. Projects will be designed to support the future installation of renewable energy generation.
Passive — all buildings use simple passive design to optimise the orientation of glazing, shading, thermal mass, day lighting and ventilation, and where appropriate specify higher than code insulation, minimise thermal bridges and air leakage.
Water — specify efficient fittings and fixtures to reduce both water use and polluted water leaving the site; new commercial buildings incorporate stormwater management systems.
Waste — ensure buildings are provided with separated waste sorting facilities for minimum three waste types, and reduce construction waste to landfill.
Wellbeing — give preference to materials and finishes accredited by indoor environmental quality certifications for enjoyable use of spaces and facilities.
Low impact — progressively reduce the embodied carbon of its designs and give preference to materials and products accredited by environmental certifications.
Local Impact ( biodiversity, culture and economics) — advocate for planting to be native or edible, design to protect and regenerate natural waterways, give preference to local products, materials, and suppliers.
Education — ensure sustainability is an agenda item for all design team meetings and site meetings.