Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell.

Auckland’s waterfront – aiming to be the international exemplar

Among the ironies of political & business life in Auckland, Waterfront Auckland sits at the forefront. As a council-controlled agency, its budget is always a target for reduction, yet its key role is the promotion of excellence.

It could have carpeted the Wynyard Quarter with structures of no architectural, visual or workplace merit and been gone by now. Instead, it has demanded higher standards in every design to ensure a high class of city waterfront transformation.

Aiming high, to be an exemplar in waterfront transformation, has attracted international attention to Auckland as a place of innovation.

Now Waterfront Auckland wants to measure the performance of not just individual buildings, as is happening through Green Building Council ratings, it wants to measure the whole quarter – the buildings, utilities, the air. And it wants to take that model for measuring sustainable construction into the wider Auckland development sphere, as Waterfront Auckland becomes one of the agencies under a new council development authority from 1 September.

The aim, then, will be to make excellence a target in development throughout Auckland.

Waterfront Auckland, in partnership with EECA (the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority), launched its new online tracking platform, the WQSmart website (http://wynyard-quarter.co.nz/wqsmart/) last week.

Waterfront Auckland chief executive John Dalzell said when launching the site: “The website is a great first output and a logical initial channel to make the invisible visible, with a fantastic design that makes normally complex data sets easily digestible by everyone.

“By raising awareness about the extent to which a neighbourhood as a whole puts pressure on resources & the environment, we increase our ability to influence behaviours by building owners, tenants and even visitors to the area.”

One of those new developers is NZX-listed Precinct Properties NZ Ltd, which will build 48,000m² of offices in its Wynyard Quarter project, on land leased from Waterfront Auckland. Development manager Alain McKinney said the company had started with an ordinary building but was turning its precinct into something quite different.

Precinct hopes to start work in July and have the first building ready for occupancy in December 2016. Mr McKinney said green building wasn’t the exception anymore but was becoming the norm – “lower cost, better working environment, fresh air, all the things we didn’t know we needed.”

Wynyard Central will also have a hotel on the old Team NZ site, part of about $1 billion of developments in the quarter over the next decade. For all of them, Mr Dalzell said, Waterfront Auckland’s role was “about influencing, not pushing”.

Developing sustainability ideas in the Wynyard Quarter began in Jellicoe St back in 2006. The bug caught and, through the creation of a dozen waterfront plans since then – now condensed into one – the bug has stuck.

One of the early aspirations for the quarter’s transformation was to reverse the traffic split to make it 70% public transport, 30% private, aided by tighter parking requirements and also helped by many visitors to the Viaduct Events Centre hotfooting it from downtown through the Viaduct Basin and over the Te Wero footbridge, instead of driving.

“The whole thinking about sustainability is something we embedded,” Mr Dalzell said. “With the new development authority, the challenge will be to take what we’ve done down here and spread that wider, and that’s why the Smart precinct is such a big deal.

“It’s an important part of being able to communicate not only to the Auckland community but to the New Zealand community too. We’ve got an opportunity to be quite strategic with this initiative.

It’s all about addressing consumption, reducing consumption, and it’s about taking the investment the council is making and joining that up with other agencies to present a more coherent opportunity to the private sector.”

The Wynyard Quarter Smart website was designed by Method Studios. It’s leading-edge here, but Waterfront Auckland is still some way behind in this kind of monitoring.

In 2007, 238 US developments signed up to participate in the pilot programme taking the LEED (Leadership in energy & environmental design) green building rating system down to neighbourhood level.

LEED for Neighbourhood Development, launched jointly by the US Green Building Council, the Natural Resources Defence Council & the Congress for the New Urbanism, was the first national US certification system for sustainable neighbourhood design & development. The system was finalised in 2009.

Earlier story:
18 August 2007: LEED rating system now down to neighbourhood level

Links: WQSmart
YouTube video overview
Method Studios
EECA Business
LEED for Neighbourhood Development

Attribution: Presentation, releases.

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