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Revitalised old building a winner

Revitalised old building a winner
Aorangi House is not just energy-efficient, it is also loved by its users

A formerly abandoned, outdated, and leaking Wellington office block, Aorangi House, is now one of New Zealand’s most energysmart buildings following a revitalisation project which demonstrates how the up-cycling of an existing commercial office building can not only significantly reduce environmental impact, but also achieve positive user perceptions coupled with leading environmental performance outcomes.

Aorangi House has since been honoured at the World Green Building Council Asia Pacific Leadership in Green Building Awards, co-winning the Leadership in Sustainable Design and Performance Award in the Commercial category.

Beca associate Ben Masters says the building was vacated in 2005 due to issues with heating, cooling, and ventilation.

“The single-glazed windows leaked, and the complete lack of insulation made the building unbearable in winter,” says Ben.

“The property was about to be demolished, when a design team of Beca building services engineers and Studio Pacific Architects suggested all the building’s issues could be solved with a major refurbishment using a passive solar design approach,” he says.

The design team’s strategy included natural ventilation, solar gain control, and reduced heat loss. The strategy significantly minimised the energy required to control environmental conditions.

These and other measures resulted in 64% energy savings, 78% operational waste diversion, and a re-used building which saved both demolition waste and energy for new materials. Ben says consideration must be given to recycling existing building stock to target the aspirational Zero Carbon buildings goal.

“Demolishing and rebuilding commercial property generates massive amounts of carbon pollution, while building regeneration can be a cheaper, greener option that can deliver a better result than new construction,” he says.

“We hope this award demonstrates that sustainable refurbishment is a viable option to the carbonhungry alternative of demolition and replacement.

We are proud to call Aorangi House our Wellington home and to have contributed to the positive building performance outcomes.”

He says the true measure of a sustainable building must also consider users’ perceptions, and Aorangi House is not just energy-efficient, it’s also loved by its users.

A “post occupancy evaluation” by Victoria University measured tenants’ perceptions of a range of factors, from temperature, air quality and lighting, to health and productivity.

Aorangi House received excellent ratings in terms of overall comfort and its perceived influence on users’ health and productivity, placing Aorangi House at the top overall of the New Zealand dataset.

“We’ve proved that you can regenerate an unloved, untenantable building to create a fantastic building that tenants love,” says Ben. “And you can do this at far less cost and with far fewer carbon emissions than demolishing and building anew.”

Aorangi House is also New Zealand’s first certified refurbished building which has been awarded a 5.5 Star NABERSNZ energy performance certification.

“Every building upgrade is an opportunity for regeneration, and the end of a tenancy is the perfect moment to turn properties into high-performing, energy-efficient, comfortable buildings – for comparatively minor additional investment,” says Ben.

“There are hundreds of earthquake-prone buildings in Wellington right now which are listed for seismic upgrades to bring them in line with current legislation.

“Rather than doing the bare minimum to get these properties up to code, owners and developers should be incentivised to seize the opportunity to regenerate.”

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