Big energy savings motivated by need to set example

2:00 PM Friday June 12, 2015 Colin Taylor

The NZI Centre in the Auckland CBD has saved 40 per cent in energy costs – Photo by Simon Devitt.

An Auckland CBD building leased by insurance giant IAG has saved 40 per cent in energy costs and is aiming higher for a 50 per cent reduction.

The NZI Centre at 1 Fanshawe St is the only building in the Auckland region to have achieved a 5.5 star rating out of a potential of six stars under the New Zealand equivalent of the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS). The national average NABERS NZ rating is 2.5 to three stars and only the Meridian and Asteron buildings in Wellington have an equivalent 5.5 rating.

NABERSNZ is the national energy rating scheme that benchmarks office building energy efficiency on a scale from 1 to 6 stars. Ratings are based on 12 months’ energy use, and can be carried out for whole buildings, tenancies, or base buildings - covering common areas and air conditioning services.

The rating is licensed to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) and administered by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC).

Mark Hill, property facilities manager for IAG, says the 9500 sq m Auckland head office housing 780 employees, achieved its high environmental rating by a cooperative effort between IAG as the tenant and Newcrest, the landlord and development manager of the five-level NZI Centre.

Hill says the push for energy savings began when the building was being designed by Newcrest as a custom build for IAG and achieved two Five Green Star ratings at the time of construction in 2009 for fit-out and base building design.

“We had to put the money where our mouth is in relation to our head office building,” says Tim Griffith, national property and administration manager for IAG. “There is concern about the impact of climate change on our environment, and conversely, the impact of commercial decisions contributing to climate change. As an insurer that protects property we feel we have to set an example in relation to our own carbon footprint.”

The latest NABERSNZ rating shows the base building has an energy intensity of 49 kilowatt hours (kWh) per square metre, per year – a 17 per cent improvement on its previous energy use.

Hill says the NABERSNZ rating was achieved through LED lighting installation and practices like the ongoing monitoring and fine tuning of plant and equipment; and aligning plant operating hours to conditions.

“The LED lighting installation was completed in August last year and savings so far this year equate to 48,000 kilowatt hours. Based on current purchase rates, this saving equates to a 12 per cent saving against overall energy spend.”

Hill explained that LED lighting doesn’t heat a building and enables temperature to be kept at a consistent level of 21C – plus or minus. Triple glazing of the building to the north facing the sun also reduces the need for air conditioning. 

The NZI Centre’s sustainability features include a distinctive double skin facade along most of its perimeter, with automatically controlled blinds to moderate glare and sunlight. It also has exposed concrete ceilings to help moderate temperature.

Another energy saving feature is underfloor heating with warm air produced by the system in winter rising more efficiently from the floor upwards rather than emanating from ceilings and remaining aloft. Toilets in the building are flushed by rainwater harvested from the roof of the building and lighting is controlled by smart timers and movement sensors which switch lights off when offices are empty.  

Hill says a collaborative agreement between IAG and EECA resulted in the development of an energy plan to promote reduced energy consumption leading to savings on operational costs and increased sustainability for the business.

“The plan is also designed to promote ongoing staff awareness and education regarding the benefits from energy saving, both financial and environmental, and it forms part of IAG’s overall sustainability strategy.”

Jacki Johnson, chief executive of IAG says the organisation had a clear intention to improve at the time of its first NABERSNZ rating.

“We were pleased to see five stars in the previous NABERSNZ rating, but we said at the time we wouldn’t rest on our laurels.

“Being efficient in our energy use is important as it helps to earn trust and respect of our people and our customers. By positively impacting on costs it also helps our business model, contributing to more affordable insurance, so it is not just a nice thing to do but it’s a strategic imperative,” Johnson says.

“Importantly, this work on energy efficiency also helps make the building a very pleasant environment to spend time in – which is great for our people and productivity.”

Mike Underhill, chief executive of EECA says IAG is an “exemplar organisation” and the aim of NABERSNZ is to spur companies to improve energy efficiency.

“This scheme isn’t simply about getting a good rating - it’s about monitoring the journey of improvement. IAG is an excellent case study in how this company works closely with building owners and managers – Newcrest in Auckland and Goodman in Christchurch - to tackle energy use with buy-in from senior management. I hope their approach will inspire other corporate tenants.”

Alex Cutler, chief executive of NZGBC, says smart design for corporate office buildings at the outset creates a blueprint for efficient buildings, but how they are maintained and used day-to-day is crucial to their performance.

“The NZI Centre had many sustainability features built in so it had a head-start. But it also has a very active building management team who work constantly to ensure the site is comfortable and running efficiently. It’s a great role model for other buildings.”