Te Kura Whare: NZ’s 1st Certified Living Building

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Sarah Rothwell

Ngai Tūhoe’s tribal headquarters, Te Kura Whare, is New Zealand’s first Living Building – and one of only 15 certified Living Buildings in the world.

A momentous and proud moment, the building’s success was announced by the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) CEO Amanda Sturgeon, at their annual conference in Seattle on Friday 19 May 2017.

Te Kura Whare is designed to the most challenging sustainable building criteria in the world. Generating its own electricity, harvesting rainwater, built from trees sourced from the forests around it, and containing no toxic chemicals – every element of the building from design and construction, to on-going operation, aims to minimise its impact on, and even restore, the natural ecosystem.

The benefit of this Certification is that it quantifies Te Kura Whare’s environmental, social and economic benefit to the wider society. To become a Living Building, Te Kura Whare’s performance has been audited over the last 12 months. The data demonstrates that the building is ‘off the grid’ (net zero) for energy, water, waste and toxicity. As well as this, the Criteria requires evidence of the building’s broader impacts on equity, health and beauty.

The project contributed to local economy and tourism with 70% of budget spent within 100km radius of the site, trade packages were broken down to allow local businesses to tender for work competitively, and local Tūhoe people were employed, and in some cases upskilled, in construction and landscaping.

For Jasmax, a rich layer to Te Kura Whare’s story is the people behind it. The design and construction team was an eclectic mix of professionals; Māori and non-Māori, Tūhoe and non-Tūhoe, aged 24-84, both immigrants and kiwis, born and raised in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Part of this team was lead architect, Ivan Mercep, Jasmax co-founder, Principal and kaumatua. Ivan worked on the project until he was 84, passing away shortly before completion. This was Ivan’s final project, and one which he delivered alongside Ngāi Tῡhoe and Jasmax Architectural Graduate, Brendan Himona.

Certification celebrates the commitment, effort and dedication of every single project, consultant and contractor team member – congratulations to all!

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