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Case study: How Auckland Council found big savings going green

Auckland Council’s new headquarters show how green building can save operational costs and reduce waste during construction.

The fitout for 135 Albert Street was designed and built using the NZ Green Building Council’s Green Star Office Interiors rating tool.

It’s aiming for a 5 Star Green Star rating and a five star NABERSNZ rating once it is fully commissioned.

Council estimates the sustainable design, materials and mechanical systems will save ratepayers an estimated NZ$2.7 million over the next 10 years.

The 29-level tower was built more than 20 years ago and was purchased by the council for $140 million.

The council needed a new HQ that could fit its staff in one building, including staff from the seven city and district councils that combined to form Auckland City Council in 2009.

“The key objectives were to optimise operational efficiency, develop the Auckland Council brand and reduce long term operating costs,” a council report said.

In addition to using Green Star and NABERSNZ rating tools, the council piloted the Circular Economy Model Office concepts in the strip out of the pre-existing fitout.

“We have endeavoured to be a good corporate citizen through our waste and pollution reduction processes, both during the construction works and as part of our ongoing running of the building, by earning adequate returns on the employed resources, by procuring sustainable furniture and fitout materials and by contributing to the wellbeing of our employees,” the council report said.

“One of our aims was to show how a refit can deliver year-on-year savings, as well as better environments.”

Floor-hubThe savings are being generated through a number of aspects, including reduced energy bills, reduced water bills, a shift to reducing the number of workstations per staff member, less printing, reduced waste and increased staff productivity and well being.

There is also a long-term capital gain benefit from reuse of an old building and turning it into a green one. A report by the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment showed a sustainable office building could have a land value of 40 per cent more than a conventional building, and that its true worth was almost 40 per cent more than a conventional building.

Council found that the relative costs of some of the key sustainability initiatives did not add a significant price premium to the refurbishment.

For example, the 45 worm bins, which convert the building’s organic waste into compost for an on-site vegetable and herb garden that supplies fresh produce to the building’s cafe, cost $11,543. The garden beds, located on a rooftop terrace, cost $8000, and two electric vehicle charging points retrofitted into the basement carpark also only cost $8000.

Saving on energy

It is estimated the post-refurbishment energy costs will be reduced by $489,776 a year, with a 39 per cent reduction in energy use achieved.

Energy saving aspects included the remanufacturing of the pre-existing fluorescent lighting into LED lighting, shifting to laptops and lower energy LCD screens, and upgrades to building services.

“The decision to remanufacture the old fluorescent lights into LED lights diverted 7.9 tonnes of steel and plastic from landfill,” the council report said.

“When the savings from transport charges and tip fees are considered, the lighting used cost approximately $3600 less than the equivalent fluorescent option. 2443 fluorescent light units were remanufactured into LED at a cost of $343 per unit totalling $837,949.”

Carving-at-main-entranceWater savings too

Low flow sensor taps fittings were installed as part of amenities refurbishment, and toilet flush systems were converted to lower flow rates also. This has reduced water use by 25 per cent compared to pre-refurbishment usage, and is expected to generate $22,584 in savings annually.

Choosing green materials for wellbeing

Staff wellbeing was a major priority, with indoor air quality a key focus. Low-VOC materials were used throughout, including carpets, paints and flooring for kitchen hubs made from recycled car tyres rather than vinyl.

The ventilation system is delivering an increased level of fresh air from five litres a second per person before the refurbishment to 15 litres a second per person. This puts the system at 200 per cent above the building code requirement for fresh air.

Indoor plants have also been installed, including “mother-in-law’s tongue” chosen for its ability to absorb airborne toxins.

Level-4-terraceThe building has over 2000 staff, but reduced parking provision as it is located in close proximity to public transport. This was a deliberate choice to encourage walking, and also cycling.

Over 200 cycle parking spaces have been provided in the basement, with over 200 lockers and 18 showers for cyclists.

There is also a new wellness centre for staff on level three of the building that offers yoga and Pilates classes, therapeutic massage and seminars on budgeting, diet and nutrition. A games room has also been created with equipment for table tennis, pool and darts, with the items purchased by the council’s social clubs from the legacy councils. A prayer room has also been included on level three to support the organisation’s cultural diversity.

In the workspaces, 10 per cent of the workstations are sit-to-stand workstations and Greenguard certified office chairs have been installed throughout.

And the workers love it

A survey of employee engagement found staff satisfaction levels with their physical work environment increased from 67 per cent to 83 per cent in the new space, and satisfaction in the workplace as a support for personal productivity has increased from 65 per cent to 73 per cent.

Reducing the waste of fitout churn

The refurbishment process generated 937 tonnes of construction waste, over 82 per cent of which was diverted from landfill through the re-use of 113 tonnes of materials and the recycling of 662 tonnes.

One of the largest single categories of reuse was cabinetry and benchtops, with over 34 tonnes reused, and also 8.6 tonnes of shelving that was reused within the new office space itself.

Level-7-WorkspaceA community group, Ecomatters Community Trust, was given permission to go through the building before strip-out commenced to identify and remove items with re-use value. These were either on-sold or donated to other community groups.

The old broadloom carpet that was removed went to Waikato, to be reused as cattle race remediation; and the new carpet, which contains 40 per cent recycled content, will be taken back by the manufacturer at end of life and fully recycled.

Plaster ceiling tiles were broken down and the gypsum extracted for use as soil conditioner, while flat glass partitions were upcycled into writing boards for the new office space.

Staff were also recruited to assist with recycling prior to shifting into Albert St, with items such as used cardboard folders at the dispersed council offices either retained for re-use at the new office, recycled or given away to educational institutions or charities. Other surplus stationary was also redirected to more than 50 community, educational and not-for-profit organisations.

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