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Easy on the environment

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Environmentally sustainable buildings don't have to cost the earth, as this project by Chow:Hill shows

Easy on the environment


As society becomes increasingly aware of its impact on the environment, more and more organisations are considering how they might efficiently manage their use of resources, such as energy, water and waste.

Leading by example is Landcare Research, New Zealand's foremost environmental research organisation.

The organisation commissioned Chow:Hill to design an environmentally sustainable facility at the University of Auckland's Tamaki Campus. The cost was comparable to that of a conventional building of the same type.

The building is divided into three blocks. The main block houses primarily scientific laboratories and collection spaces; the second includes offices, a library and social spaces, and the third block is made up of glasshouses with associated laboratory space.

The building has a concrete frame that provides the necessary stability for a research facility, as well as providing high thermal mass.


The windows are predominantly double glazed with clear glass. External shades over the windows on the north-facing side of the building serve to minimise overheating and glare.

Internal floor and wall coverings have been minimised. Concrete walls and exposed aggregate floors, such as those in the ground floor reception, contribute to the thermal mass and aesthetic of the building.

The library, meeting rooms and offices have been carpeted using a range of synthetic Interface tiles, which have a recycled post-industrial waste content.

Composting toilets have been installed on the two upper levels of the building to reduce water usage. Solid waste is collected in two large tanks on the ground floor with liquid waste being disposed of into the mains sewer.

The ground floor toilets are flushing because the composting tanks could not be located below the predicted site flood level. Water for these and the irrigation of gardens and glasshouses is collected from the roof.

Stormwater run-off from the site has been limited by installing a permeable gravel surface in the carpark that allows contaminants to be filtered out.

For more details, contact Chow:Hill, PO Box 23 593, Papatoetoe, Auckland, phone (09) 277 8260, fax (09) 277 8261. .

First published date: 23 August 2004

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