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Geyser – leading green design

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Geyser in Parnell raises the benchmark for sustainable architecture

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The trend away from elitist private offices and claustrophobic cube farms towards more egalitarian, open-plan commercial workspaces has improved the lot of the white-collar worker. Now, the game has changed again with a new breed of architecture that holistically addresses the entire building in terms of worker health and comfort.

A picture of shimmering glass, Geyser, in Auckland, was a runner-up in the highly competitive Office category in the World Architecture Festival in Singapore this year. The project is the sixth that architectural firm Patterson Associates has created for owner Samson Corporation, and the first to earn 6 Green Stars for office design. In fact, Geyser is the first new build office building in New Zealand to attract this high rating.

A 6-Star rating represents world leadership in office design, according to the New Zealand Green Building Council, which is responsible for assessing environmentally sustainable design initiatives. Geyser's high-tech innovations mean it is set to use only one-third of the energy of a standard office building and half the amount of artificial lighting and water. Staff will breathe 100% fresh air, compared to around 25% in air-conditioned offices.

Facing the street on three sides, Geyser is made up of five individual buildings that together take up one end of a large city block. Three lines slice through the site plan, forming divisions between the buildings. Each ground floor is given over to retail or F&B, with the three floors above providing for 24 open-plan offices, for a total occupancy of around 450 people. The five buildings are connected by outdoor atria, walkways and a courtyard that help create a sense of community for all those who work, dine or shop there. A 165-vehicle automated car stacker serving five levels of underground car parks beneath the centre of the development contributes to the efficient use of space.

To some extent, the drive for green efficiencies has dictated the look of Geyser, says architect Andrew Patterson.

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For example, natural light floods into the heart of the complex, greatly reducing the amount of energy required for artificial lighting, and bringing a human scale to this mixed-use development. In most areas the ground-level retail spaces open to both the street and the atria, creating dual shop frontages.

The open-air internal atria had another advantage too. Built-up use of the lot was limited by council bylaws, but being open to the skies, the walkways didn't count, so there was more room for retail and office space.

However, the most distinctive visual aspect of Geyser is its patterned translucent facade. This provides a passive heating and cooling system so efficient that the building needs only minimal heat input in the morning over the coldest winter months and has no need for any air conditioning.

"Essentially, Geyser has a double glass facade that traps air heated by the sun in the winter and redistributes it across the whole building, says Patterson. "This is controlled by a computerised system that takes its weather cues from a meteorological station on the roof. Individual tenants can open internal windows to make use of this heated air."

In summer, the computer can open up strategic vents of the outer facade, forming convection currents allowing cool air to waft through the interiors. No matter what the season, Geyser enjoys 100% fresh, naturally circulated air.

It is the innermost, reflective facade and the use of frit glass, which filters the sun's rays, that give Geyser its shimmery, see-through quality. Large, vertical hinges on the articulated windows are also part of the distinctive patterning. Some elements of the concrete facades were designed to look as if they were moulded around the operable external facade, for continuity.

Other strategies that contribute to Geyser's high green rating include low-wattage lighting, a rainwater harvesting system used to supply toilets and irrigation systems and low-flow water utilities. The design also utilises showers, lockers and cycle parks to encourage active transport. Geyser is also close to major public transport hubs.

Besides the efficient use of space, there is the convenience of the high-tech car stacker that parks cars automatically. Once the car is parked in the virtual garage, a turntable spins it around, loads it onto a lift and takes it to an available space. When it's time to leave, drivers just swipe their card and the machine finds and returns the vehicle.

The economy of space comes from the low head heights and narrow bays – just a 75mm-100mm space between wing mirrors, made possible by an automated service and a computer that works out how to best utilise every available space. If someone is away for two weeks, for example, a spot won't sit empty.

Samson Corporation general manager, Marco Creemers, says Geyser is not only architecturally innovative, it offers huge cost savings to tenants through the impressive array of green features in the new development. But savings are also likely to result from a rise in productivity and reduced absenteeism, two factors that improve significantly along with the quality of the indoor environment.

Setting is everything in terms of business and retail success – not just a handy geographical location but also a dynamic, go-ahead office environment that surrounds a company and by association becomes part of its ethos.

"Businesses locating here make an important statement about commitment to the welfare of our planet, and also to the wellbeing of staff, guests and customers," says Creemers. "Geyser promotes environmental, cultural and social wellbeing."

First published date: 29 November 2012

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Credit List

Location Geyser, Auckland Architect Patterson Associates Ltd
Client Samson Corporation
Contractor Mainzeal Property and Construction
Environmental engineering peer reviewer Arup Australia
Electrical engineers eCubed Building Workshop
Structural engineers Joyce Consultants
Environmental engineers Tricia Love Consultants
Quantity surveyor Rider Levett Bucknall
Facade design and construction King Facade New Zealand
Facade structure Structure Design
HVAC Thurston Consulting
Car stacking design International Parking Systems
Fire engineer Chester Consulting
Security system Boss
Signage Designed by Milk, installed by Signs Advertising
Landscaping Natural Habitats
Cladding Glass-reinforced concrete (GRC) from Unicast Cladding Systems
Elevator services Kone Elevators
Hardware Wilson & Macindoe
Flooring Holcim Green Star concrete mix with honed, exposed aggregate finish, by Polished Concrete
Paints Dulux, NZ Enviro Choice
Lighting Concept Lighting