Light louvres ... sustainable arcitecture ... maintenance nightmare ... timber tower ... wooden wonder
The brief for an aesthetically stunning building using Environmentally Sustainable Design principles (ESD) was set early in 2004 by Wellington Waterfront Ltd for building designers Studio of Pacific Architecture. One of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators, Meridian Energy is a leader in sustainable development , as evidenced by its commitment to only using renewable sources of generation to meet the country’s growing energy demands. In December 2004, Meridian Energy identified the need for a larger premise, and initiated a project to develop office accommodation that met both its immediate and long-term operational needs and which reflected its commitment to renewable energy and sustainability. The Meridian Energy building planners have adopted the ESD principles as a means to ensure the building meets a range of sustainability considerations throughout its entire life cycle. Not only is a comfortable and productive working environment a prerequisite, but waste minimisation and a reduction in energy and water use have also been sought, along with the use of eco-friendly building products.
The four-storey (18 metre high) Meridian building’s L-shaped configuration is specifically intended to create a sheltered northwest facing Kumutoto plaza that will seamlessly connect to the Kumutoto Precinct via an enclosed thoroughfare. The lower floor (5.3 metres high) has been designed as a retail space, and is dominated by glass walls that provide uninterrupted views through the building to the harbour, or back towards the Kumutoto Plaza. The striking saw-tooth roof integrates the overall building with the surrounding structures on the wharf.
The designers’ efforts to optimise energy use and comfort all year round have included extensive use of natural light and ventilation, as well as insulation. Solar gains are controlled by active shading systems which use external louvres and interstitial blinds within glazed facades, while photo sensors control the blinds and motorised louvres. The air supply is sourced entirely from outdoors, meaning the primary ventilation is provided by natural means. These innovative features are integrated into an overall passive design through the thermal mass properties of the building’s concrete shear wall core and other exposed concrete surfaces.