The new Greenpeace NZ building in Akiraho Street, Mount Eden, Auckland April 2008 (C) GREENPEACE / TAYLOR
Hi there, My name's Rob Taylor, I normally work as a Greenpeace international action and logistics coordinator or project manager, I was asked at the beginning of the year to consider doing a couple of contracts with the NZ office. Now this suits me just fine, being based in NZ and having most of my work happen overseas always increases my carbon footprint and takes me away from my family, two very good reasons why I increasingly dislike going overseas.
Firstly I was asked to pull together and coordinate the team to work and prepare for the just completed Rainbow Warrior tour of New Zealand, I'm sure you've seen some of the results of this tour, perhaps the action on the coal ship in Lyttelton in the last few weeks or the replanting of deforested areas for dairy expansion in the central North Island. I was very pleased for the team here with the results of this tour and I think it is fair to say Greenpeace has re established itself as a loud voice on the issue of climate change and especially a taking a lead on pushing the Government to tighten up its emissions trading scheme and to ensure industries like dairy do not get a free ride and are included in this scheme in good time.
Inside Akiraho Street April 2008 (C) GREENPEACE / TAYLOR
Once the ship left Auckland I swung more into the next project, that of refitting the new office that Greenpeace has bought in Auckland as its new HQ.
A bit of background: Greenpeace has been in its current premises since 1996 in Valley Road, Mt Eden and has been renting this whole time. As part of Auckland city's public transport infrastructure investment and very ironically in my view, the current building we are in is designated to become a bus lane somewhere around 2010. Now that's great for public transport and we applaud this, however it does mean that we need to move as we cannot secure another long term lease.
I was asked last year to lead the team looking for a new office either to rent or to buy, one that we could combine our campaigning office and our operations department. I spent six months looking for the perfect building, one which would require as little refit as possible, close to public transport hubs, good profile, combined office and warehouse space of 1000-1200m2, close to the central business district and of course cheap.....hmmmmm, not many of those around I have to say. However after quite some extensive hunting we did find something that fitted almost all of the criteria, again in Mt Eden. We put in a bid and before we knew it, we were successful and on April 1 we took possession of our own building.
So now Greenpeace NZ owns its own building. I think this is actually very good, it means that we are not spending members' money on rentals and that is good for the financial health of the organisation.
Now came the job of starting the refit, of course as we spent quite a sum on securing the property at the same time as running live campaigns the budget for this work would never be as big as I'd like it to be. Of course as we are Greenpeace it is also important that we showcase as much sustainable building practice and materials as possible. It's hugely important for us to practice what we preach and this is a perfect opportunity to do so. It's also very tricky for us due to the bigger budgets required to work sustainably, the usual catch 22 for good environmental practice.
It's a good thing I have no problems asking everyone to work and supply us for free or as good a price as possible.
So the process began. We selected TaylorED - an architect with values similar to ours and have been working with them to pull together the plans for the refit. We've consulted widely with a number of enviromental and sustainable specialists to incorporate as much best practice into this refit as possible, and to ensure that we future proof for the development as much as possible for items we cannot afford in this years budget cycle. We are currently at the 'lodging of building consent' stage, so the drawings are starting to get to the completed stage which means very soon I will have the fitout detail. For buidling consent we are looking at putting in a new staircase through a pre stressed concrete slab, holes in walls to introduce more windows and cutting holes in the new roof to introduce more light in places. There's a lot of work that goes into this phase. Structural and fire engineers need to be involved in the planning so there is a need to bring a lot of skills together in this preparation.
Akiraho Street April 2008 (C) GREENPEACE / TAYLOR
But there is an awful lot more to do that does not require building consent and can be done while we wait for this to come through, we need to rewire the whole place, put in all the infrastructure for the ICT cabling and pre wire the building for a new lighting plan. Look to better insulating the workspace both for noise and thermal comfort probably using wool, introduce double glazing again where cold or heat could be a problem. As we are looking at a mostly open plan office we need to treat the space acoustically so that people like me with extremely loud phone voices do not curtail other peoples work. The building needs a new roof, the old one only had about a year left in it so we've moved forward and done this as a first step as a maintenance issue.
Some other environmental features we are looking at are of course solar hot water, installation of our existing solar PV rig, but perhaps also growing this in the future, external building louvres to cut down direct sunlight and provide shade in summer, passive airflow through the office space, an external outdoor area with garden, roof water collection and grey water recycling, environmentally friendly non solvent based paints, the list goes on.
There's a little demo work that needs to be done (we start on this in the next week or two), and an old Vector transformer on site which we would like to remove.
So for the moment, I think I'll leave things there otherwise this turns into something way too long, I'll write updates weekly from now on for those that are interested, detailing the progress and who we've been working with.