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Curvaceous and contemporary, the Asteron Centre responds to its immediate architectural surroundings and the needs of an energy-beleaguered planet

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Environmentally friendly architecture can imply a local or global focus. As a first step, it will need to respond directly to its surroundings, complementing, not contending with, neighbouring structures. Looking at the big picture, Green Star checks and balances provide standards and credits for ecologically responsible, sustainable design.

The Asteron Centre – standing in a prominent position across from the Wellington Railway Station – fulfils both these agenda. It benefits the local environment and has attracted a 5-Star NZGBC Green Star rating for Office Design. The building was designed by Warren and Mahoney Architects, with the 13th-floor integrated fit-out of the naming-rights tenant designed by interior design firm Geyer.

The Asteron Centre is the largest commercial office development in Wellington. Developer OFDL promoted an integrated fit-out approach for all the tenants which not only reduced waste but gave a more cost-effective solution for them. The project was brought together by base building project manager Mallard Cooke, together with Fletcher Construction and Fletcher Interiors teams.

Project architect for Warren and Mahoney Catherine O'Hare says the Asteron Centre achieved its high Green Star rating through close attention to sustainable design on all aspects of the project.

"The building's Environmentally Sustainable Design requirements include minimising energy and water consumption, considering the comfort of users – including optimising natural light and views at every opportunity – and utilising materials that incorporate recycled content or can themselves be recycled," says O'Hare. "Other essential aspects were using materials that register low particle emissions and VOC ratings, considering the embodied energy in all components specified and, lastly, selecting materials that have certification with environmental agencies."

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This exceptionally high Green Star achievement is accompanied by a facade that mitigates the building's size and finds empathy with its nearby structures on both sides – in two different ways.

The structure has been segmented into two distinct contrasting elements, says Warren and Mahoney architect Ralph Roberts.

"The strong north portion along Bunny Street provides a bookend to the Wellington Railway Station – with two-storey grey granite fins echoing the Waterloo Hotel and railway station colonnade."

The facade's lighter west and corner section, by contrast, acts as a veil to the building, giving emphasis to transparency. This face, along Featherston Street, is more horizontal, with windows recessed into the facade forming a sympathetic backdrop to the government buildings opposite.

In addition, a generous clear-glazed recess dividing the facades creates the impression you are looking at two buildings instead of one – breaking down the scale, so the Asteron Centre is in keeping with the proportions of surrounding buildings.

The two levels of carparking are differentiated by a louvred facade that dissipates wind in the area, drawing it into the building on this corner.

The level 13 integrated fit-out for insurance group Asteron conformed to all green requirements and contributed to the high Green Star Office rating, says Geyer associate Sally Macnaughton.

The unique configuration, large central core and the atrium broke down the expansive floor plates into district zones or neighbourhoods – one of the factors that attracted Asteron to the building. The location of the atrium, combined with the high performance glass, gives an excellent quality of light through many areas that would ordinarily be beyond the reach of natural light. Together with the design intent to use perimeter areas to accommodate the open work environment, this ensures all staff have views of the harbour or hills.

By locating low-height collaboration zones in the area between the atrium and the perimeter, workers have visual access to the premium views from the cafeteria that links onto the atrium.

"Like the building and its surroundings, the Asteron fit-out works in harmony with the base building, providing a flexible, responsive solution," says Macnaughton. "With built form limited to the internal zones, work areas can easily be reconfigured to accommodate changing team sizes. In addition, client areas double as meeting spaces to support the office area by use of operable walls."

First published date: 09 April 2011

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Credit List

Location Asteron Centre, Wellington
Owner/developer One Featherston Development (OFDL), Mark Dunajschik, Grant Corlesion
Architect, base building Roy Wilson, Ralph Roberts, Catherine O'Hare, Warren and Mahoney Architects
Project manager Mallard Cooke
Building services and fire engineering, structural, facade engineer Aurecon
Contractor Fletcher Interiors
Acoustic consultant Malcolm Hunt Associates
Facade Thermosash
Mechanical Aquaheat Industries
Roofing Tararua Roofing
Lifts Schindler Lifts NZ
Shopfronts Wight Aluminium
Canopy Metro GlassTech
Precast concrete Stresscrete
Steelwork Stevensons Interior designer,
Asteron fit-out Associate Sally Macnaughton, Geyer
Asteron project manager The Building Intelligence Group