The corporate head offices of Fonterra, Kiwibank, Genesis and Air NZ, flanking Fanshawe St in downtown Auckland provide a strong shield to the activity behind them.
Walk past the high-rise buildings towards the Waitematā Harbour and welcome to the most sustainable and biggest urban-regenerated neighbourhood in the country.
Wynyard Quarter, with its commercial, arts, retail and apartment developments, and landscaped and pedestrianised streets, is coming of age and living up to the aspiration of being a vibrant, exciting place to live, work and play.
Office workers spill out on to the laneways, plazas, neighbourhood pocket parks and community gardens for lunch and visit the upmarket eateries.
The developer brought in a retail consultant to analyse the pedestrian flow and make sure the cafes, restaurants and shops are located in the right places. There are no dead spaces in Wynyard Quarter.
Mitchel Cantlon, associate principal with architects Warren and Mahoney, says Wynyard Quarter is leading the way in New Zealand in terms of masterplannig and having sustainability goals.
"They are above the minimum standards and written into the development agreements. Wynyard Quarter is a strong story," he says.
Once an industrial port area dominated by warehouses, gas works and petrol and liquid chemical storage tanks and closed to the public, Wynyard Quarter has transformed into a mixed use, architecturally designed neighbourhood destination. When it is fully re-developed by 2030 it will be home to about 3000 residents and 25,000 workers.
Within the quarter is a central block bordered by Pakenham St West, Halsey, Madden and Daldy streets which is also home to the ground-breaking 48,000sq m Innovation Precinct.
The landowner, council-controlled organisation Panuku Development Auckland, has collaborated with developer Precinct Properties and Warren and Mahoney to design and build the aspirational precinct.
There are permanent tenants but much of the office space is dedicated to co-sharing and hot-desking, where entrepreneurs collide and share successes and failures.
They work in three inspiring, sustainable buildings — the world-leading 6 Green Star and 5.5 NabersNZ rated Mason Bros. in Pakenham St, and the 5 Green Star 10 and 12 Madden St.
Precinct has the leasehold rights on the sites for 110 years and written into the agreements are sustainability development requirements.
On the corner of Daldy and Madden streets, a tank had leaked 120,000 gallons (545,532 litres) of aviation gas over the years. The developer dug into the water table - one of the most contaminated sites in the country - to form the three-level basement car park at 10 Madden St.
A sophisticated and robust tanking system was installed to keep the water and vapour out. Nearby at the Mason Bros. site a vapour barrier was established with thick high-density polyethylene sheeting welded together.
Mason Bros. — Warren and Mahoney has its Auckland office there — was converted from a 1920s manufacturing warehouse first housed by Mason Bros Engineering Co where the Stewart Island ferry Wairua and turbines for the Manapouri Power Station were built. It was latterly used by Southern Spars which provided rigs and masts for yachts.
"The building wasn't occupied for six years," says Cantlon. "It was a pigeon coop and falling down around our ears. All the glass was smashed and it was a filthy mess. We stripped it back, the walls clad in asbestos were taken away, and we retained as much as we could of the building's steel superstructure and solid masonry walls containing brick and reinforced concrete. We created new openings in the brick to get the sunlight in.
"We wanted to maintain a character building and preserve the connection with the working waterfront and marine industrial context."
The Mason Bros. redevelopment, with 5500sq m of floor space over three levels, was completed in 2017 and became the first commercial project in New Zealand to be awarded the 6 Green Star rating, representing world's best practice.
The top two levels are suspended and separated from the sandblasted brick and concrete walls, and a 60 metre long internal lane with seating areas and meeting places runs along the ground floor of the building.
The (original) saw-tooth roof drops light into the lane which acts as the circulatory system of the building, as well as an internal pedestrian link. The use of reflective gold glazing for the lane blurs the difference between the old and new in the building.
There is no car parking but ferry, bus and rail services are within easy walking distance. But more workers are electing to bike. The Mason Bros. building has showers, changing rooms, lockers, towel service, hair dryers, hair straighteners — the full works.
A post-occupancy evaluation showed an 8.3 per cent increase in staff productivity and 20-25 per cent reduction in absenteeism.
Cantlon says while staff packed up and worked from home during the Covid lockdown, there was an overwhelming urge for them to return to office — not just at Mason Bros, but the wider innovation precinct. "All the buildings are hitting or exceeding sustainability targets, and the proof of it is that when each building comes on stream it is fully occupied and a new level of vibrancy is created."
The seven-level 10 Madden St has recently been completed and the Media Design School is the anchor tenant. In front of the building and next to the N. Cole Plaza, the original pavilion-styled premises is being re-created for a restaurant. Across the street is the ASB Waterfront Theatre.
Precinct Properties and Warren and Mahoney have again got together to plan a 18,000sq m building next to Mason Bros. — the last 5 Green Star project to complete the innovation precinct. The five to six-level brick building is designed in a L shape to take in 117 Pakenham St West and 124 Halsey St.
Cantlon says the Wynyard Quarter has been benchmarked against the best in Europe and North America where innovation precincts started up in lower rent areas.
"It's a huge step forward — Wynyard Quarter has a mix of work, live and recreation opportunities.
There are bars, restaurants, Auckland Theatre Company to make a vibrant 24/7 place.
"The laneway and pedestrian network is integral to the masterplan and it's even become a destination for weekend cycling," he says.
The main lane, Tiramarama Way, tells the story of the city's historical shoreline. There are purpose-built grooves or puddles engraved into the laneway that fill and empty in sync with the Waitematā Harbour tides. There is the suspended lighting that celebrates constellations specific to Maori astronomy including Matariki, and 480,000 dots are sandblasted on to the laneway to represent Auckland's waterfront in 1841.
Circular burrow planters or small rain gardens are spread around to collect and clean rainwater. The newly-completed Amey Daldy Park opposite Mason Bros. is part of the plan to create open, accessible and people-friendly spaces within Wynyard Quarter.
The street furniture in the park acts as both sculptures and seats, and the rolling hills and trees provide shade. In one corner is the pump station which stores 400,000 litres of wastewater which ensures the wastewater system keeps up with demand and reduces the likelihood of flooding.
The 10.5 metre high pump station has curved walls to reflect the nearby tanks that are iconic to the area — and it doubles as a public toilet.
When it comes to sustainability and vibrancy, the developers and architects have thought of everything.
Originally a 1920s warehouse used by the Mason Brothers Engineering Company, the 2016 redevelopment of 139 Pakenham Street has delivered a stunning character building ready for its second lifetime. A three-level workplace over 5700 square metres, the Mason Bros building today is a key part of Auckland's Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct, established to foster collaboration, innovation and economic development. And it has the distinction of being the only NabersNZ 5.5 Star-rated property in Auckland, adding to an enviable 6-Green Star rating. Mason Bros is therefore not only breaking the mould for innovative working spaces, but it is changing the game for sustainability, as New Zealand's first workplace to earn the title of one of the world's greenest buildings.
With the redevelopment of the Mason Bros building, which had in more recent times housed manufacturing business Southern Spars, long-term owner Precinct Properties aspired to a high-quality development that supported Wynyard Quarter's Sustainability Standards. It also sought and has achieved a building which provides long term operational efficiency, durability, flexibility and enhanced amenity for tenants which include Warren and Mahoney and engineering consultancy firm Mott MacDonald (both of which played key roles in its development), and innovation accelerator GridAKL. The building is valued at over $42-million and the renovation was completed in 2016.
Post-occupancy research in the Mason Bros property has confirmed the advantages, with up to a 25 per cent drop in absenteeism, occupants indicating an increase in their personal productivity of 8.5 per cent, and a massive 130 per cent increase in cycling following the move.
Six Green Stars
The redeveloped Mason Bros. building achieved the 6 Green Star rating in 2019. Here are its sustainability credentials.
• Existing building materials of steel and masonry re-used
• Removal and safe disposal of asbestos cladding, and safe immobilisation of site contamination
• 90 per cent reduction in PVC
• 90 of timber used has FSC certification, the gold standard for wood harvested from forests responsibly managed and environmentally conscious
• 80 per cent of concrete used on site certified as having lower environmental impact than standard concrete
• 90 per cent of floor coverings certified for lower environmental impact
• Low environmental impact ceiling tiles and plasterboard
• High performance solar control glazing that promotes enhanced daylight
• Light coloured surface finishes to promote deeper internal daylight distribution
• 100 per cent LED lighting with zoned switching and detectors
• Metering of energy and water usage, and 70 per cent reduction in water use, relative to Watercare assumptions for new developments
• 913 tonnes of demolition waste collected and 90 per cent recycled
• 136 tonnes of construction waste and 80 per cent recycled
• Windows are double glazed, the roof insulation is twice the Building Code minimum, and the underfloor water heating helps warm the building — atrium has natural ventilation
• 35 per cent reduction in energy use according to the NabersNZ assessment
• Rainwater harvesting into a central 25,000 litre tank, and water re-used in toilet flushing and hose tap for maintenance and cleaning. Rainwater contributes to 50 per cent of the total water used in the building annually
• 3200 tonnes of carbon reduction under lifecycle analysis.