Wynyard Quarter

Panuku Development, wholly owned by Auckland Council, has tested the market for green commercial and residential space at its Wynyard Quarter development, and found there is an appetite for sustainable approaches to urban renewal.

The latest stage of apartments is close to sold out off the plan, the award-winning 5 Green Star ASB North Wharf is fully leased, as is a new commercial project, the Mason Brothers Building redevelopment. An innovation precinct is on the drawing board, and it too is already partly leased.

The current 3.5-hectare Wynyard Central stage was recognised for its planning, sustainability and building performance requirements with the top award in the Comprehensive Plans Category at the Excellence on the Waterfront awards held last month in Washington DC.

Panuku’s senior sustainability advisor Dr Viv Heslop said that from the council’s initial purchase of the land from Ports Auckland, thinking green had been a fundamental element of both the masterplanning and the requirements imposed for specific developments, with commercial buildings required to achieve 5 Green Star and residential developments 7 Star Home Star or greater.

The organisation also aims to have buildings in the Quarter achieve 6 Green Star, as well as an all-timber building and a Living Building Challenge-certified building.

She said the council’s thinking was that the public sector should be showing leadership in terms of development.

This was validated by public feedback during the consultation on the first stages of Queens Wharf and the Marina.

“They got a clear message from submitters that the public sector should show leadership with sustainability,” Dr Heslop said.

The development plan has a “blue green development” objective – taking into account both the earth and the water, she said. And it is happening at a scale that can “transform and lead the market”.

A holistic and integrated approach has been taken, with a climate change framework put in place, transport planning aiming to achieve 70 per cent active travel via walking, cycling or public transport, and open green public spaces used to achieve water quality and stormwater management objectives.

The Mason Brothers development. Image: Warren and Mahoney

A community infrastructure plan has also been developed, to ensure that as urban renewal proceeds, elements such as child care centres, a chemist, medical practitioners and retail are put in place to meet the needs of new residents and workers.

As part of Panuku’s design standards for the precinct, all buildings must have roofs that are “solar ready” as part of planning for the use of renewable energy.

Dr Heslop said the plan has been to make strategic public sector investments to attract private sector investment.

She said that when the organisation was putting requests for expressions of interest for individual developments out to the market, it had a choice between asking firms what they could deliver in terms of sustainability, or telling firms what was wanted. They chose the latter.

Testing the market

“We were told the standards were too high by some, and we said, well, we’ll test this,” Dr Heslop said.

“The market is a made up thing – someone has to push it and test it.”

Aspirational targets, such as an LBC building, mean developers can be asked, “Why can’t you do that for us?”

“Some of the larger companies weren’t prepared to deliver, so we chose parties that shared our values and got what we are after,” she said.

The organisation is working closely with the two developers that are undertaking current projects at Wynyard Central – Willis & Bond and Precinct Properties.

Dr Heslop said developers of projects like the Willis & Bond multi-residential precinct, where 75 per cent of the apartments have achieved 8 Star Home Star Design, are “always hesitant about additional costs” incurred in meeting high green benchmarks.

But for this and other projects in Wynyard Quarter, data is being collected during construction that will quantify perceived costs versus actual costs.

The “perception gap” is something the NZ Green Building Council has released a report on, she said, and architecture firm Jasmax are doing work around costings.

“We are starting to have the data and information to battle that perception.”

Panuku is also piloting the use of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia toolkit, and achieved an “excellent” rating last month for one of the major road linkage projects, the Madden and Pakenham Road Upgrade.

It is also a founding member of ISCA’s new NZ sister organisation, Infrastructure Sustainability New Zealand.

“We felt we were asking our developer partners to seek external verification so we felt we should hold our own projects up to scrutiny,” Dr Heslop said.

Another example of the lens being applied to infrastructure in the Quarter is how stormwater is being managed.

The land is at the bottom of a large urban catchment, so there is a high stormwater flow. To manage it and reduce pollution flowing into the harbour, the street network includes swales, rain gardens and reed beds along parks.

The organisation has also partnered with the local iwi (peoples) to manage all the open spaces. The iwi select appropriate plants with local provenance that are both functional and serve a beautification purpose.

Water quality is another issue that came out of the sustainability plan. Dr Heslop said people want to be able to touch the water and swim in it, so the organisation is working with the mana whenua (M?ori who have tribal links to Auckland) to develop cultural indicators of water quality. The iwi also have oversight on all public space and open space designs.

Targets have been set for developers to deliver 50 per cent less parking than standard planning rules allow, and the Park Hyatt Hotel that is being developed in the Quarter will better that, providing only 33 per cent of the allowable parking. It is also planning to install rooftop solar.

The entire precinct is being integrated with an online platform, Wynyard Quarter Smart, that will make public the various targets and track and report on elements including energy use, water use, environmental quality, carbon emissions and transport use.

Dr Heslop said discussions are underway with organisations including Auckland transport about obtaining data. Buildings are the first – and simplest – sector that will be tracked using the combination of data and smart city approaches, she said.

Ambitious aspirational targets have been set for energy use by buildings of 80kWh/m2/year for commercial, and for residential 40kWh/m2/year – well below the energy performance of the most efficient buildings currently operational in NZ.

The goal is also to be presenting actual performance data in an engaging way that stimulates behaviour change, she said.

Beyond the completion of the Wynyard Quarter redevelopment, Dr Heslop said the organisation was already looking at how the model can be used in other parts of the country.

“How do we capture the outcomes, the data, and take it elsewhere?” she said.

Taken as a whole, the precinct scale approach has advantages in achieving sustainability, Dr Heslop said, as all the stakeholders including developers are “part of something bigger than just a building”.

“We have been able to push [developers] and can be sure we will get the best outcomes we can.”

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